The absolute chronology of Boker Tachtit (Israel) and implications for the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in the Levant

Elisabetta Boaretto, Marion Hernandez, Mae Goder-Goldberger, Vera Aldeias, Lior Regev, Valentina Caracuta, Shannon P. McPherron, Jean Jacques Hublin, Steve Weiner, Omry Barzilai

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3 Scopus citations


The Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP) is a crucial lithic assemblage type in the archaeology of southwest Asia because it marks a dramatic shift in hominin populations accompanied by technological changes in material culture. This phase is conventionally divided into two chronocultural phases based on the Boker Tachtit site, central Negev, Israel. While lithic technologies at Boker Tachtit are well defined, showing continuity from one phase to another, the absolute chronology is poorly resolved because the radiocarbon method used had a large uncertainty. Nevertheless, Boker Tachtit is considered to be the origin of the succeeding Early Upper Paleolithic Ahmarian tradition that dates in the Negev to ∼42,000 y ago (42 ka). Here, we provide 14C and optically stimulated luminescence dates obtained from a recent excavation of Boker Tachtit. The new dates show that the early phase at Boker Tachtit, the Emirian, dates to 50 through 49 ka, while the late phase dates to 47.3 ka and ends by 44.3 ka. These results show that the IUP started in the Levant during the final stages of the Late Middle Paleolithic some 50,000 y ago. The later IUP phase in the Negev chronologically overlaps with the Early Upper Paleolithic Ahmarian of the Mediterranean woodland region between 47 and 44 ka. We conclude that Boker Tachtit is the earliest manifestation of the IUP in Eurasia. The study shows that distinguishing the chronology of the IUP from the Late Middle Paleolithic, as well as from the Early Upper Paleolithic, is much more complex than previously thought.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2014657118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - 22 Jun 2021


  • MP to UP transition | Initial Upper Paleolithic | Emirian | Boker Tachtit | Southern Levant


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