Publications by authors named "Ellery Frahm"

3 Publications

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Short-term occupations at high elevation during the Middle Paleolithic at Kalavan 2 (Republic of Armenia).

PLoS One 2021 4;16(2):e0245700. Epub 2021 Feb 4.

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia.

The Armenian highlands encompasses rugged and environmentally diverse landscapes and is characterized by a mosaic of distinct ecological niches and large temperature gradients. Strong seasonal fluctuations in resource availability along topographic gradients likely prompted Pleistocene hominin groups to adapt by adjusting their mobility strategies. However, the role that elevated landscapes played in hunter-gatherer settlement systems during the Late Pleistocene (Middle Palaeolithic [MP]) remains poorly understood. At 1640 m above sea level, the MP site of Kalavan 2 (Armenia) is ideally positioned for testing hypotheses involving elevation-dependent seasonal mobility and subsistence strategies. Renewed excavations at Kalavan 2 exposed three main occupation horizons and ten additional low densities lithic and faunal assemblages. The results provide a new chronological, stratigraphical, and paleoenvironmental framework for hominin behaviors between ca. 60 to 45 ka. The evidence presented suggests that the stratified occupations at Kalavan 2 locale were repeated ephemerally most likely related to hunting in a high-elevation within the mountainous steppe landscape.
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February 2021

The earliest evidence for Upper Paleolithic occupation in the Armenian Highlands at Aghitu-3 Cave.

J Hum Evol 2017 09 7;110:37-68. Epub 2017 Jul 7.

Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, 31905, Israel.

With its well-preserved archaeological and environmental records, Aghitu-3 Cave permits us to examine the settlement patterns of the Upper Paleolithic (UP) people who inhabited the Armenian Highlands. We also test whether settlement of the region between ∼39-24,000 cal BP relates to environmental variability. The earliest evidence occurs in archaeological horizon (AH) VII from ∼39-36,000 cal BP during a mild, moist climatic phase. AH VI shows periodic occupation as warm, humid conditions prevailed from ∼36-32,000 cal BP. As the climate becomes cooler and drier at ∼32-29,000 cal BP (AH V-IV), evidence for occupation is minimal. However, as cooling continues, the deposits of AH III demonstrate that people used the site more intensively from ∼29-24,000 cal BP, leaving behind numerous stone artifacts, faunal remains, and complex combustion features. Despite the climatic fluctuations seen across this 15,000-year sequence, lithic technology remains attuned to one pattern: unidirectional reduction of small cores geared towards the production of bladelets for tool manufacture. Subsistence patterns also remain stable, focused on medium-sized prey such as ovids and caprids, as well as equids. AH III demonstrates an expansion of social networks to the northwest and southwest, as the transport distance of obsidian used to make stone artifacts increases. We also observe the addition of bone tools, including an eyed needle, and shell beads brought from the east, suggesting that these people manufactured complex clothing and wore ornaments. Remains of micromammals, birds, charcoal, pollen, and tephra relate the story of environmental variability. We hypothesize that UP behavior was linked to shifts in demographic pressures and climatic changes. Thus, by combining archaeological and environmental data, we gain a clearer picture about the first UP inhabitants of the Armenian Highlands.
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September 2017

Middle Palaeolithic toolstone procurement behaviors at Lusakert Cave 1, Hrazdan valley, Armenia.

J Hum Evol 2016 Feb 31;91:73-92. Epub 2015 Dec 31.

Department of Anthropology, Old World Archaeology Program, University of Connecticut, 354 Mansfield Road, Unit 1176, Storrs, CT 06269, United States.

Strategies employed by Middle Palaeolithic hominins to acquire lithic raw materials often play key roles in assessing their movements through the landscape, relationships with neighboring groups, and cognitive abilities. It has been argued that a dependence on local resources is a widespread characteristic of the Middle Palaeolithic, but how such behaviors were manifested on the landscape remains unclear. Does an abundance of local toolstone reflect frequent encounters with different outcrops while foraging, or was a particular outcrop favored and preferentially quarried? This study examines such behaviors at a finer geospatial scale than is usually possible, allowing us to investigate hominin movements through the landscape surrounding Lusakert Cave 1 in Armenia. Using our newly developed approach to obsidian magnetic characterization, we test a series of hypotheses regarding the locations where hominins procured toolstone from a volcanic complex adjacent to the site. Our goal is to establish whether the cave's occupants procured local obsidian from preferred outcrops or quarries, secondary deposits of obsidian nodules along a river, or a variety of exposures as encountered while moving through the river valley or across the wider volcanic landscape during the course of foraging activities. As we demonstrate here, it is not the case that one particular outcrop or deposit attracted the cave occupants during the studied time intervals. Nor did they acquire obsidian at random across the landscape. Instead, our analyses support the hypothesis that these hominins collected obsidian from outcrops and exposures throughout the adjacent river valley, reflecting the spatial scale of their day-to-day foraging activities. The coincidence of such behaviors within the resource-rich river valley suggests efficient exploitation of a diverse biome during a time interval immediately preceding the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic "transition," the nature and timing of which has yet to be determined for the region.
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February 2016