The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Earliest radiometric dates for stratified archaeological remains in Greece: the evidence from Kokkinopilos, NW Greece


1Department of Paleoanthropology, Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology and Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, 2The Malcolm H. Wiener Laboratory for Archaeological Science, American School of Classical Studies at Athens

March 27, 2015 9:45, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

The red-bed site of Kokkinopilos is an emblematic and yet also most enigmatic open-air Palaeolithic site in Greece, stimulating controversy ever since its discovery in 1962. While early research raised claims for stratigraphically in situ artifacts, later scholars considered the material reworked and of low archaeological value, a theory that was soon to be challenged again by the discovery of in situ artifacts, including handaxes. Here we present results of a long-term study including geoarchaeological assessments, geomorphological mapping and luminescence dating. We show that the site preserves an overall undisturbed sedimentary sequence related to an ephemeral lake, marked by paleosols and stratigraphic units with Palaeolithic material that is geologically in situ and hence datable. Our research resolves the issues that have been the source of controversy: the depositional environment, stratigraphic integrity, chronological placement and archaeological potential of the site. Moreover, the delivered luminescence ages demonstrate that the lithic component with bifacial specimens considerably pre-dates the last interglacial and therefore comprises the earliest stratigraphically defined and directly radiometrically-dated archaeological material in Greece. Kokkinopilos has served as a reference site for the interpretation of all other red-bed sites in north-west Greece, therefore our results have significantly wider implications: by analogy to Kokkinopilos, the open-air sites of Epirus should not anymore be considered ‘by default’ as inscrutable palimpsests with limited archaeological potential; rather, these sites can be excavated and dated. This realization opens up new prospects for future research in Epirus, an area that is the most prolific in Palaeolithic remains in Greece.

VT is supported by the European Research Council (ERC STG 283503)