“Out of Arabia” and the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic transition in the southern Levant
Beginning some 50 thousand years ago, a technological transition spread across the Near East and into Eurasia, in the most general terms characterized by a shift from preferential, prepared core reduction systems to the serial production of elongated points via opposed platform cores. The earliest known occurrence of such a technological shift is the Emiran Industry, whose oldest manifestations are found in the southern Levant. The cultural and demographic source(s) of this industry, however, remain unresolved. Looking to archaeogenetic research, the emerging picture indicates a major dispersal of our species out of Africa between 100 and 50 thousand years ago. Ancient DNA evidence points to low levels of admixture between Neanderthal and pioneering modern human populations in the Near East. These propositions underscore the significance of the Emiran and beg a reassessment of its origins. In this paper, we ask whether the Emiran was a local development, a cultural/demographic replacement, or the fusion of indigenous and exogenous lithic traditions. Our analysis considers the techno-typological features of the Emiran in relation to late Middle Palaeolithic and contemporaneous assemblages from adjacent territories in northeast Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, in order to identify overlapping cultural features and potential antecedents. Parsimonious with the archaeogenetic scenario of admixture, the Emiran seems to represent a fusion of local southern Levantine Mousterian tool types with the Afro-Arabian Nubian Levallois reduction strategy. We propose that Emiran technology is primarily rooted in the Early Nubian Complex of the Nile Valley, which spread onto the Arabian Peninsula during the Last Interglacial and developed at the interface of northern Arabia and the southern Levant between 100 and 50 thousand years ago.