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The Northern Iranian Central Plateau at the End of the Pleistocene and Early Holocene: The Emergence of Domestication

Abstract

Until recently, the Iranian Central Plateau (ICP) was considered to have been unoccupied at the end of the Pleistocene (Marshall 2012 in ‘Missing Links: Demic Diffusion and the Development of Agriculture on the Central Iranian Plateau’. Durham University e-Theses. http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/3547/), raising questions about the mechanisms that drove Neolithic diffusion in this area. However, recent field data has provided new insights into the rise of domestication here. Reassessment of the local chronology during the Early Holocene reveals consistent occupation of the ICP throughout the Epipaleolithic/Mesolithic. Plant and animal remains indicate that Mesolithic communities preserved a purely foraging lifestyle, yet data for the Early Neolithic shows that communities produced fully domesticated resources. This clear economic rupture suggests the introduction of farming technologies from other regions. Additionally, the central geographic position of the ICP between the Zagros and western Central Asia, and the correspondence in material culture between the eastern sites of the ICP and the Zagros suggest that the region was a hot spot of connections favourable to the eastward diffusion of the Neolithic.

چکیده

تا همین اواخر، فلات مرکزی ایران از جانب برخی (Marshall, 2012) بعنوان سرزمینی خالی از سکنه در پایان پلیئستوسن انگاشته میشد که خود دربردارندۀ پرسشهایی اساسی دربارۀ نحوۀ نفوذ نوسنگی به منطقه بوده است. این درحالی است که یافتههای جدید ناشی از فعالیتهای میدانی چشماندازهای جدیدی را در ارتباط با شروع اهلیسازیها در این منطقه گشوده است. بازنگری گاهنگاریهای محلی ابتدای هُلوسن حاکی از وجود استقرارهای انسانی در خلال فراپارینهسنگی/میانسنگی در فلات مرکزی است. دادههای گیاهی و جانوری منطقه نشان دادهاند که جوامع میانسنگی سبک زندگی مبتنی بر معیشت گردآوری و شکار داشتند، در عین حال، یافتههای حاصل از محوطههای ابتدای نوسنگی حاکی از تولید منابع کاملا اهلیشده است. چنین گسست واضح معیشتی به معنی ورود فناوریهای مرتبط با کشاورزی به منطقه از مناطقی دیگر است. ضمن اینکه موقعیت جغرافیایی فلات مرکزی ایران میان زاگرس و غرب آسیای مرکزی و همخوانی مواد فرهنگی محوطههای نوسنگی لبۀ شرقی فلات مرکزی و زاگرس بیانگر این است که این منطقه (فلات مرکزی ایران) محلی کلیدی در مسیر گسترش نوسنگی به سمت شرق بوده است.

Résumé

Jusqu’à récemment, les mécanismes de diffusion du mode de vie néolithique sur le Plateau Central Iranien (PCI) ont été largement débattus et la région était considérée inoccupée à la fin du Pléistocène (Marshall, 2012). De nouvelles données de terrain offrent d’autres perspectives quant à l’adoption de la domestication sur le PCI. La révision de la chronologie régionale du début de l’Holocène montre une occupation durable du plateau au cours de l’Epipaléolithique et du Mésolithique. Les vestiges de faunes et de plantes montrent que les communautés mésolithiques ont préservé une économie reposant exclusivement sur la chasse et la cueillette. En revanche, les données sur le début du Néolithique indiquent que les sociétés exploitaient des ressources pleinement domestiquées. Cette rupture économique claire suggère l’introduction des technologies agricoles en provenance d’autres régions. De plus, la position centrale du PCI entre le Zagros et l’Ouest de l’Asie Centrale et les correspondances dans la culture matérielle entre les sites localisés à l’est du PCI et le Zagros suggère que la région était une zone clef pour établir et maintenir des réseaux de contacts favorables à la diffusion du Néolithique vers l’Est.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of the Journal of World Prehistory for their constructive and useful comments. We also like to thank Sarah Wright for her productive help. This work was supported by the French National Research Agency under the IDEX Bordeaux NETAWA Emergence Project No. ANR-10-IDEX-03-02 ‘Out of the Core: Exploring social NETworks at the dawn of Agriculture in Western Asia 10 000 years ago’.

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Correspondence to Hamed Vahdati Nasab.

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Vahdati Nasab, H., Shirvani, S. & Rigaud, S. The Northern Iranian Central Plateau at the End of the Pleistocene and Early Holocene: The Emergence of Domestication. J World Prehist 32, 287–310 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10963-019-09133-0

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Keywords

  • Iranian Central Plateau
  • Domestication
  • Southeastern Caspian Sea
  • Mesolithic
  • Neolithic

Mots clefs

  • Plateau Central Iranien
  • Domestication
  • Mer Caspienne
  • Mésolithique
  • Néolithique