427/527A, Theoretical Frameworks and Previous Research

By Jesus Willis,2014-09-25 18:35
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427/527A, Theoretical Frameworks and Previous Research427/


    Mongolia: Paleolithic

    What was once known colloquially as Outer Mongolia and formally as the Mongolian People’s Republic

    (Бугд Найрамдах Монгол Ард Улс) is now, since 1991, simply Mongolia (Монгол Улс Mongol Uls)

    Inner Mongolia (内蒙古 Nei Menggu) is today an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China

    that follows Mongolia’s southern and eastern borders.

In this class, “Mongolia” refers to both of these

    territories as well as other traditionally ethnically Mongolian areas of China (in Ningxia, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, etc.) and Russia (Buryatia, Tannu-Tuva, etc.)

    This larger region includes irredenta sometimes collectively referred to as “Greater Mongolia” or

    “Ethnic Mongolia” (see map below) and shares a

    common overlapping border with “Greater Tibet” or

    “Ethnic Tibet” (which includes China’s western Gansu

    and Qinghai provinces as well as parts of

    Sichuan,Yunnan, and Xinjiang). The significance of

    the contiguous Mongolian-Tibetan culture area cannot be overestimated, even in the pre-Buddhist period.

    Major natural regions of Mongolia (north to south):

    1. taiga (Rus. таига; a dense, boreal forest)

    2. steppe

    3. gobi (Mong. говь; a stony desert, like the

    Arabic hamada ةدامح or Australian gibber


    Most of the earliest Mongolian stone assemblages are relatively dated on the basis of typology, patination,

    and weathering

    Gobi basin and range topographic regime

    aeolian deflation produces lag deposits,

    sometimes incorrectly referred to as

    “palimpsests,” of human activity

    Common features of the earliest Mongolian Paleolithic assemblages (;125,000 BP; the last interglacial):

     handaxes, proto-handaxes, pebble choppers

     no associated hominin fossils

    Henry Fairfield Osborn & William Diller Matthew promoted Central Asia as the “cradle of mankind”

    Osborn, H. F. (1916) The origin and evolution of

    life upon the Earth. The Scientific Monthly 3(1): 5-


    Rainger, R. (2004). An Agenda for Antiquity:

    Henry Fairfield Osborn and Vertebrate

    Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural

    History, 18901935. Montgomery, AL: University

    of Alabama Press.

    Mongolia occupies the center of a Venn diagram of interactivity: the Siberian, Chinese and Central Asian realms…

    The record after ca. 125,000 BP (the last interglacial):

    quarry-workshop sites vs. stratified sequences; long periods of human occupation reflected differentially

     buried open-air river terraces

     caves & rockshelters

    Moil’tyn-am, Orkhon River, near Qara Qorum (also spelled Karakorum or Kharakharin) Činggiz Khaan’s

    th13-century CE capital city

    buried fluvial terraces associated with the last


    Middle Paleolithic LevalloisMousterian industry

    and Upper Paleolithic flake industry occur in four

    distinct stratigraphic units

    skreblo (Rus. скребло); a massive side scraper:

    Siberian Paleolithic “fossile directeur

    Siberian Late Paleolithic skreblo

    Deepest horizon at Moil’tyn-am contains both

    LevalloisMousterian tools (Levallois-like

    prepared cores, discoidal cores, Mousterian

    points) and East Asian choppers and chopping

    tools made on pebbles

Central Asia & Mongolia as a “crossroads”; large-

    scale interaction?

    Indigenous development of blade technology?

MiddleUpper Paleolithic transition (skreblo drops

    out of stone assemblage; can this be interpreted as evidence of diminished Siberian influence in Mongolia?)

    ecological degradation or “desertification”: perhaps not such a significant factor in Mongolian Pleistocene human demography as previously thought, at least during considerable periods of the Ice Age…

The Joint Mongolian-Russian-American Archaeological Expeditions

Mongolian: Монгол-Орос-Америкийн Археологийн

    Хамтарсан Экспедици

Russian: Российско-Монгольско-Американская Совместная

    Археологическая Экспедиция

    Arts Bogd Uul, Gobi Altai Mountains

    2100-km jasper and flint quarry-workshop

    with artifact concentrations up to 300 per


    What is the nature of social interactions

    occurring at locations of “patchy”


    Tsagaan Agui Cave, north Gobi Desert

    stratified cultural record back to at least

    150,000 (possibly 750,000) years ago…

    Chikhen Agui Rockshelter, north Gobi Desert

    lateterminal Pleistocene microlithic

    assemblage in occupation/hunting camp


    Tolbor-4 and Tolbor-15, steppe-forest ecotone

    Excavation of the Tolbor-15 locality, 2006. This occupation surface has an associated radiocarbon date of 37,4002600 RCYBP; the Middle-Upper Paleolithic


    Tolbor-4 excavation, July 2009.

Important questions:

     What is the nature of the relationships between

    Mongolia and adjacent territories (Siberia, China,

    Central Asia) throughout the Pleistocene?

     How are changes detectable in these relationships

    related to climatic and regional environmental

    changes over that period?

Why haven’t we found fossils of archaic Homo

    sapiens or Homo erectus in Mongolia yet?! Or

    have we…?

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