Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Title: Absence of evidence or evidence of absence? Assessing the intensity of Early Upper Paleolithic occupations in Serbia and the Central Balkans
Abstract: This dissertation explores anatomically modern human (AMH) settlement dynamics during the Early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) in the Central Balkans, particularly the Republic of Serbia. Using results from Paleolithic surface surveys from the Western Morava River Valley (WMV), a large valley in the central part of the country, I determine whether the surface record provides missing evidence for the presence of EUP groups in Serbia. The presence of EUP material found on the surface in the WMV would indicate that the limited evidence for EUP settlement in Serbia and the Central Balkans may stem from research biases which emphasize excavating cave sites over open-air settings. The surface surveys in the WMV recovered Paleolithic artifacts, especially from the Middle Paleolithic, but failed to find any EUP type fossils. These results show that the sparsity of EUP sites in Serbia cannot be explained by a lack of Paleolithic research at open-air settings.
I then use previously published lithic density data from Paleolithic archaeological layers as a proxy for occupational intensity to determine how sparsely occupied the Central Balkans was during the EUP, especially compared to sites in other parts of Eurasia. Results show that lithic density data from the Central Balkans (and also Eastern Balkans) is markedly and significantly lower than other parts of Eurasia, suggesting a limited AMH presence in the Central Balkans during the EUP.
Finally, the dissertation presents results from a method which confirmed that the lithic material analyzed from the surface surveys was created by hominins and not from natural processes.
The lack of EUP material recovered from the surface surveys combined with the very low density of archaeological remains within sites compared to other regions points to limited occupation of the Central Balkans particularly in regions of Serbia south of the Danube during the EUP, suggesting that the region was not an attractive settlement location for AMH.
Committee: Steven Kuhn (chair), Vance Holliday, Mary Stiner, John Olsen