The first Europeans: summary of key sites and evidences in Western Turkey

The dispersion of Homo from Africa into Eurasia and the relationship between the colonization of East Asia (Indonesia, China) and Western Europe, is still poorly understood because of the small number of fossils and the geographically scattered sites with evidences. Therefore, the research on the number of waves and the species migrating is really difficult. The discussion is even richer, if considering that some early human populations in Europe did not come from Africa only, but they could also come from Southwest Asia.

In summary, some key sites to consider are: 

  • Dmanisi in Georgia, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, with presence of Homo erectus 1.8 MYA – link
  • Orce and Atapuerca in Spain, the earliest evidence in Western Europe dated to 1.2 Ma – link
  • Cueva Victoria in Southern Spain, with some human fossils dated to 0.78-0.99 Ma (Gibert, L. et al, 2016 –link-) and the near Cueva Negra with Acheulean tools dated to also c. 0.9 Ma.
  • La Boella in Northern Spain, with a set of 50 flint tools dated to between 0.8-1 Ma, along with skeletal remains and coprolites of big mammals.
  • And today I am focusing below on two sites with important finds in Western Turkey, at the gateway from Asia into Europe, frequently been considered as a route for Early Pleistocene hominin dispersal:

Kocabaş

A fragmentary hominin skull was found in 2002 in a travertine quarry. A study combining different methods (Lebatard A. et al, 2014 –link-) dated this fossil to 1.1-1.3 Ma. Its morphological patterns are some intermediate between the Homo erectus skulls from Dmanisi (1.8 Ma) and those from the Zhoukoudian Lower-cave (0.8 Ma). The mammal fauna found at the same level correspond to common Middle Pleistocene species within the same age range.

Kocabaş, Turkey

Kocabaş hominin skull. Photo: Anne-Elisabeth Lebatard et al, 2014

Gediz River

A hard hammer flake was found in 2007 in ancient sediment of the Gediz river, at Kale Tepe on the Anatolian peninsula. Its study published in 2015 (link) suggests a hominin occupation of that area within the range 1.24 to 1.17 Ma, again synchronous with the initial peopling of Western Europe like the Kocabaş hominin.

Stone tool, Gediz river, Turkey

Stone tool, Gediz river, Turkey. Photo: Quaternary Science Reviews

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