A middle palaeolithic burial of a modern human at Taramsa Hill, Egypt


A middle palaeolithic burial of a modern human at Taramsa Hill, Egypt

 Taramsa Hill, near Qena in Upper Egypt, is an isolated landform, situated some 2.5 km southeast of the Dandara temple (26 [degrees] 6 [minutes] N 32 [degrees] 42 [minutes] E)  The hill is capped with a 4-m thick cobble deposit. Excavations have been carried out at the site, called Taramsa 1, since 1989 (Vermeersch et al. 1995).

The site was used for systematic quarrying of chert cobbles, as demonstrated by numerous pits and trenches. On the basis of both typology and stratigraphy, multiple quarrying phases fall into three main extraction periods, of early, mid and late Middle Palaeolithic respectively (Vermeersch in press). The early Middle Palaeolithic is characterized by the presence of handaxes, foliates and Nubian point and flake Levallois methods. In stratigraphically superimposed assemblages, assigned to the mid Middle Palaeolithic, foliates and handaxes are lacking but the Nubian point and flake Levallois methods continue to be represented. The latest assemblages, established through stratigraphical observations, do not contain Nubian point Levallois methods but they are characterized by a Levallois reduction system that is transitional to the systematic production of blades. In these late Middle Palaeolithic assemblages we are confronted with a changing Levellois production, not unlike the transitional assemblages known in the Negev.

From the article, a description of the remains. It’s been given a rough age of 55,000 years.

The skeleton appears to belong to an anatomically modern child. This is particularly evident from the morphology of the frontal bone which shows none of the recession or supraorbital development which would be expected in immature archaic humans at this developmental stage. Many features seem to he close to those of the robust Epipalaeolithic populations of North-Africa (‘Mechtoids’) but also to those of the early anatomically modern humans of the Levant. The slenderness of the long bones, the rounding of the forehead and of the occipital region, the pentagonoid shape of the skull in occipital view and certain details of the orbits and their surroundings are undoubtedly anatomically modern features. On the other hand, the relatively large and apparently prognathic face may set this child closer to the more primitive forms of Jebel Irhoud, rather than the above-mentioned Mechtoid populations. Further comparisons with sub-Saharan Africa are necessary. On the basis of this preliminary assessment, an attempt to place this skeleton in a precise phylogenetic position would be dangerous. The fact that the skeleton belongs to a child who had not yet developed all the characteristics of an adult individual invites caution. Further study will be carried out on the surviving fragments after conservation and preparation.


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