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The History of Hominin Occupation of Central Asia in Review

Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)

Abstract

The timing of hominin dispersals during the early Pleistocene, specifically into East Asia, is well established. The pattern of migration across inner Asia and the subsequent duration/intensity of hominin colonization of these areas, however, are still poorly resolved. The large territory of Central Asia defines a clear path within Eurasia through which hominin dispersals farther east may have occurred. The purpose of the present study is to examine the degree to which an autochthonous evolutionary trajectory is supported in Central Asia and how the potential connections between this and neighboring regions may be characterized during the Pleistocene. Archaeological and human paleontological evidence from the region is reviewed and compared to that from the Near East, the Altai, and China. This review informs a more detailed analysis of the Central Asian Middle Paleolithic record. Prevailing theoretical models suggest that Central Asia was inhabited by Neandertals migrating from the west to seek refuge from expanding modern human populations during the Middle Paleolithic. Morphological analyses of the newly discovered Obi-Rakhmat hominin and a re-evaluation of the Teshik-Tash child, both from sites in Uzbekistan, provide a test of this model. Results indicate that evidence of the morphological pattern that typically describes European Neandertals is equivocal in Central Asia. Although both Obi-Rakhmat and Teshik-Tash express some Neandertal features, their morphologies also suggest some admixture with local populations and/or those migrating into Central Asia from the North and East.

Keywords

  • Anghilak Cave
  • Obi-Rakhmat Grotto
  • Uzbekistan
  • Central Asia
  • Early Pleistocene
  • Middle Paleolithic variability
  • Initial Upper Paleolithic
  • Hominin migration
  • Colonization

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the editors Christopher Norton and David Braun for inviting me to present this paper at the 2007 annual American Association of Physical Anthropologists meeting in Philadelphia and for providing editorial support during the preparation of the manuscript for publication. I would also like to thank Eric Delson and Allison Brooks for their constructive comments as discussants at this symposium. Nicolas Rolland provided exceptionally useful information, references, and opinions in his review of this article that I have tried to faithfully incorporate into the manuscript. His comments allowed me to greatly improve the manuscript.

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Glantz, M.M. (2011). The History of Hominin Occupation of Central Asia in Review. In: Norton, C., Braun, D. (eds) Asian Paleoanthropology. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-9094-2_8

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