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Dzudzuana Cave

Early Upper Paleolithic in Georgia

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An outside view of the Dzudzuana cave in Georgia

An exterior view of Dzudzuana cave in Georgia

Image © Science/AAAS

Dzudzuana Cave is a rockshelter with archaeological evidence of several Upper Paleolithic occupations, located in the western part of the Republic of Georgia, five kilometers east of the similarly dated Ortvale Klde rockshelter. Dzudzuana cave is a large karst formation cave, with the opening some 560 meters above modern sea level and 12 meters above the current channel of the Nekressi River.

Occupations at the site include early Bronze Age, Chalcolithic, and most substantially, 3.5 meters of Upper Paleolithic deposits, the oldest dated to between 27,000 and 32,000 RCYBP (31,000-36,000 cal BP). The site contains stone tools and animal bones similar to that of the Early Upper Paleolithic occupations of Ortvale Klde.

Dinner at Dzudzuana Cave

Animal bones showing evidence of butchering (cut marks and burning) in the earliest Upper Paleolithic (UP) levels of the cave are dominated by the mountain goat called Caucasian tur (Capra cacausica). Other animals featured in the assemblages are steppe bison (Bison priscus, now extinct), aurochs, red deer, wild boar, wild horse, wolf and pine marten. Later UP assemblages at the cave are dominated by steppe bison. The researchers suggest that may reflect seasonality of use: steppe bison would have inhabited the open steppe at the base of the foothills in early spring or summer, while tur spend the spring and summer in the mountains and come down to the steppes in late fall or winter. The seasonal use of tur is also seen at Ortvale Klde.

The occupations at Dzudzuana cave are from early modern humans, showing no evidence of Neanderthal occupations such as seen at Ortvale Klde and other Early UP sites in the Caucasus. The site reflects additional evidence of the early and rapid dominance of EMH as they entered into regions already occupied by Neanderthals.

AMS Radiocarbon Dates and UP Assemblages at Dzudzuana Cave

  • Unit A: ~5,000-6,300 RCYBP, 6000 cal BP, Neolithic, 30 flax fibers, five dyed
  • Unit B: ~11,000-13,000 RCYBP, 16,500-13,200 cal BP: Terminal Paleolithic, blades and bladelets from bi-polar cores; 48 flax fibers, three dyed (one black, two turquoise)
  • Unit C: ~19,000-23,000 RCYBP, 27,000-24,000 cal BP: Upper Paleolithic, dominated by blades and bladelets, microliths, flake scrapers, burins, "carinated cores"; 787 flax fibers, 18 spun, one knotted, 38 dyed (black, gray, turquoise and one pink)
  • Unit D: ~26,000-32,000 RCYBP, 34,500-32,200 cal BP: Upper Paleolithic, microliths, flake scrapers, thumbnail scrapers and double end scrapers, some bladelets, cores, endscrapers; 488 flax fibers, including 13 spun, 58 dyed (turquoise and gray to black), several exhibited cutting; some of the fibers are 200 mm long, others broken into shorter segments

Textiles at Dzudzuana Cave

In 2009, researchers (Kvavadze et al.) reported the discovery of flax (Linum usitatissimum) fibers in all levels of the Upper Paleolithic occupations, with a peak in level C. A few of the fibers in each of the levels were colored in hues of turquoise, pink and black to gray. One of the threads was twisted, and several were spun. The ends of the fibers show evidence of being purposely cut. Kvavadze and colleagues surmise that this represents the production of colorful textiles for some purpose, perhaps clothing. Other elements that may be related to the production of clothing discovered at the site include tur hair and the micro-remains of skin beetles and moths.

See the Photo Essay for details about the dyed flax fibers at Dzudzuana cave.

Excavation History of Dzudzuana Cave

The site was first excavated in the mid 1960s by the Georgia State Museum under the direction of D. Tushabramishvili. The site was opened again in 1996, under the direction of Tengiz Meshveliani, as part of a joint Georgian, American and Israeli project who also conducted work at Ortvale Klde.

Sources

This glossary entry is a part of the About.com Guide to Paleolithic and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Adler DS, Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Tushabramishvili N, Boaretto E, Mercier N, Valladas H, and Rink WJ. 2008. Dating the demise: Neandertal extinction and the establishment of modern humans in the southern Caucasus. Journal of Human Evolution 55(5):817-833.

Bar-Oz G, Belfer-Cohen A, Meshveliani T, Djakeli N, and Bar-Yosef O. 2008. Taphonomy and Zooarchaeology of the Upper Palaeolithic Cave of Dzudzuana, Republic of Georgia. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 18:131-151.

Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, and Adler DS. 2006. The implications of the middle-Upper Paleolithic chronological boundary in the Caucasus to Eurasian prehistory. Anthropologie 44(1):49-60.

Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Meshveliani T, Jakeli N, Bar-Oz G, Boaretto E, Goldberg P, Kvavadze E, and Matskevich Z. 2011. Dzudzuana: an Upper Palaeolithic cave site in the Caucasus foothills (Georgia). Antiquity 85(328):331-349.

Kvavadze E, Bar-Yosef O, Belfer-Cohen A, Boaretto E, Jakeli N, Matskevich Z, and Meshveliani T. 2009. 30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers. Science 325:1359.

Meshveliani T, Bar-Yosef O, and Belfer-Cohen. 2004. The Upper Paleolithic in Western Georgia. In: Brantingham PJ, Kuhn SL, and Kerry KW, editors. The Early Upper Paleolithic beyond Western Europe. Berkeley: University of California Press. p 129-153.

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