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Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory

ARTICLES | 2010

14 April 2012

Shell ornaments from the Upper Paleolithic through Mesolithic layers of Klissoura Cave 1 by Prosymna (Peloponnese, Greece)

Mary C. Stiner Eurasian Prehistory 7:2 (2010): 287-308.

Abstract

More than 1500 shell ornaments were recovered during the excavations of the early Upper Paleolithic through Mesolithic layers of Klissoura Cave I. The ornament assemblages from the middle and lower Aurignacian and the earliest Upper Paleolithic (Uluzzian) layers associate with well preserved hearths and other intact cultural features. The older ornament assemblages are exceptionally rich in mollusk species, whose shells humans collected from marine shorelines, freshwater habitats and Pliocene fossil sources. A particularly dense concentration of ornamental shells occurs within the area of a small structure in the lower Aurignacian (layer IV). Taxonomic diversity in the ornament assemblages declines precipitously after the formation of layer IIIe-g (upper Aurignacian), and this condition of low diversity persists through the end of the cultural sequence. The changes in ornament diversity seem to reflect natural changes in coastline habitat structures of the region. All of the Upper Paleolithic ornament assemblages are “high-graded” or selectively winnowed for harmony in color, form and quality. There are few if any hints of manufacturing errors and debris typical of shell ornament assemblages in coastal sites. Rather, the ornaments display high frequencies of use wear (polish), usually in a preferred orientation, indicating that most of them arrived on site while affixed to human bodies or organic artifacts. There are no remains of edible marine mollusks in Klissoura Cave I, consistent with its inland location. The taxonomic composition of the early Upper Paleolithic shell assemblages is similar to those documented in Italy, whereas the very limited taxonomic composition of the later ornament assemblages is most consistent with those found at Franchthi Cave on the southern Argolid.

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