Middle Palaeolithic human occupation of the high altitude region of Hovk-1, Armenia

R. Pinhasi, B. Gasparian, S. Nahapetyan, G. Bar-Oz, L. Weissbrod, A. A. Bruch, R. Hovsepyan, K. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Charting the timing of human occupation in the mountainous regions of the Caucasus during the Last Interglacial/Glacial periods is of particular interest to the understanding of past human adaptive and behavioural plasticity and capacity. In this paper we analyse palaeoenvironmental, faunal, and archaeological data gathered during 2006-2009 excavations of the Palaeolithic cave site of Hovk-1, Armenia, in order to address whether human presence in this cave correlates with episodes of mild climate and certain environmental and ecological conditions that were favourable to huminin occupation in such a region. In the second part of the paper we evaluate the implications of our results in understanding the nature of human presence in other mountainous regions such as the Alps and its potential implications for Palaeolithic research.Our analysis demonstrates that hominins occupied Hovk-1 Cave during milder climatic phases of the Last Interglacial sensu lato (MIS 5d-c) and Last Glacial (late MIS 4/early MIS 3) periods when the area surrounding the cave was an open meadow environment. The stratigraphic Units with noticeable traces of hominin occupation (Units 4, 5 & 8) contrast with others in the lack of cave bear fauna and suggest an inverse correlation between human and cave bear occupational phases in Hovk-1. We speculate that human groups visited this region to hunt specific prey species that prevailed in this habitat (such as the bezoar goat). However, the assemblages of large mammals from Hovk-1 do not provide any clear anthropogenic signal and therefore highlight the difficulty of teasing apart natural and cultural formation processes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3846-3857
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number27-28
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Caucasus
  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Palaeoclimate
  • Palaeoenvironmental reconstruction

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Global and Planetary Change


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