The Nubian Levallois technology in central Syria in the context of the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transitional period and the IUP variability in the Eastern Mediterranean Levant

Yuri E. Demidenko

Ferenc Rakoczi II Transcarpathian Hungarian College of Higher Education, 6 Kossuth Square, Berehove 902 00, Ukraine. E-mail: ORCiD:

Jean-Marie Le Tensorer

Universität Basel, Departement Umweltwissenschaften, IPNA, 145 Spalenring, Basel CH 4055, Switzerland. E-mail: ORCiD:

Vera von Falkenstein-Wirth

Reservoirstrasse 11, Oberwil CH 4104, Switzerland. E-mail:

Cite as: Demidenko, Y. E., Le Tensorer, J.-M., von Falkenstein-Wirth, V. (2023). The Nubian Levallois technology in central Syria in the context of the Middle–Upper Palaeolithic transitional period and the IUP variability in the Eastern Mediterranean Levant. Litikum – Journal of the Lithic Research Roundtable, 11, pp. 9–34.

Abstract: This article focuses on the Nubian Levallois technology first recognized in northeastern Africa in the 1960s. Now, sites of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) Nubian Complex associated with Homo sapiens are known to occupy vast areas in northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Recently, proper Nubian Levallois technology has been recognized at sites in southern Africa and the southern part of the Eastern Mediterranean Levant as well. Here we report several sites with Nubian Levallois artefacts from central Syria, a Levantine region geographically closer to Arabia than Africa, where such technology had not been identified previously. The analyzed lithic assemblages share the same techno-typological characteristics. Technologically, they feature a newly recognized “developed Nubian Type 2-method, single-platform unidirectional convergent, Jerf Ajla/Qalta-type core” or shortly, “Jerf Ajla/Qalta-type Nubian” cores and method. This method was geared towards the serial production of pointed blades and Levallois points on blades in a single core reduction cycle. This differs from other Nubian core reduction methods, which tend to focus on producing a single pointed flake or Levallois point on a flake in each reduction cycle of a core. Typologically, the investigated Syrian assemblages are dominated by Upper Palaeolithic tool classes and types, especially endscrapers and burins. Besides the lithic data, these assemblages are assumed to be older than 33–36 uncal ka BP measured at the sites Jerf al-Ajla and Umm el-Tlel. We argue that central Syrian assemblages with Nubian methods can be dated to the transitional period between the Middle Palaeolithic or Middle Stone Age and the Upper Palaeolithic, more precisely, to the Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP). Thus, the developed character of the Jerf Ajla/Qalta-type Nubian cores does not only adds to the variability of the Nubian Levallois technology but also explains its absence in MSA locations in Africa and Arabia, and its presence in the IUP Levant. Accepting this, we propose the name “Jerf Ajla/Qalta industry” for these particular Nubian-related IUP assemblages and sites in central Syria. In doing so, a second IUP industry is now recognized by us in the Levant, in addition to the Early Emiran, known for its improved Nubian 1 method with opposed-platform cores and a new hunting projectile type, the Emireh point. Both IUP industries appeared in the Levant as a result of Homo sapiens migration with different Nubian-related knapping traditions from Africa and Arabia into the neighbouring Eastern Mediterranean Levant. The Early Emiran is considered to be a successful IUP industry in the Levant, as a predecessor of the IUP Late Emiran and Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) Early Ahmarian industries. Moreover, parts of the population carrying this industry even spread beyond southwestern Asia to other Eurasian regions, heralded by new IUP and EUP industries there. However, the Jerf Ajla/Qalta industry and its makers did not continue to survive in the Levant.

Keywords: Nubian Levallois technology, Initial Upper Palaeolithic, Syria

Data availability statement: The datasets generated during and analyzed in the current study are available from the authors at reasonable request. The paper has been compiled mostly by Yuri E. Demidenko in Kyiv during the current Russian war in Ukraine.

Disclosure statement: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Funding statement: No financial support for the research and the publication of this article.

Copyright: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike International Public License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). You are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and transform the material, under the following terms: You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

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