Defining paleoclimatic routes and opportunities for hominin dispersals across Iran

Mohammad Javad Shoaee*, Paul S. Breeze*, Nick A. Drake, Seyyed Milad Hashemi, Hamed Vahdati Nasab, Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach, Thomas Stevens, Nicole Boivin, Michael D. Petraglia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Fossil and archaeological evidence indicates that hominin dispersals into Southwest Asia occurred throughout the Pleistocene, including the expansion of Homo sapiens populations out of Africa. While there is evidence for hominin occupations in the Pleistocene in Iran, as evidenced by the presence of Lower to Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites, the extent to which humid periods facilitated population expansions into western Asia has remained unclear. To test the role of humid periods on hominin dispersals here we assess Paleolithic site distributions and paleoenvironmental records across Iran. We developed the first spatially comprehensive, high-resolution paleohydrological model for Iran in order to assess water availability and its influence on hominin dispersals. We highlight environmentally mediated routes which likely played a key role in Late Pleistocene hominin dispersals, including the expansion of H. sapiens and Neanderthals eastwards into Asia. Our combined analyses indicate that, during MIS 5, there were opportunities for hominins to traverse a northern route through the Alborz and Kopet Dagh Mountains and the Dasht-I Kavir desert owing to the presence of activated fresh water sources. We recognize a new southern route along the Zagros Mountains and extending eastwards towards Pakistan and Afghanistan. We find evidence for a potential northern route during MIS 3, which would have permitted hominin movements and species interactions in Southwest Asia. Between humid periods, these interconnections would have waned, isolating populations in the Zagros and Alborz Mountains, where hominins may have continued to have had access to water.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0281872
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalPLoS One
Volume18
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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