Computational models of chronology and regional settlement in the Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic Zagros (20000–6000 BP)

Joe Roe

Paper presented at the 'Revisiting the Hilly Flanks: the Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic periods in the eastern Fertile Crescent' conference, Copenhagen, 2021.


Our understanding of the chronology of the Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic transition in the Zagros region is poor compared to other parts of Southwest Asia. The current framework is based primarily on lithic typologies, anchored by limited radiocarbon sequences from key sites. However, the resumption and expansion of fieldwork in the region in recent decades has made much more absolute dating evidence available. Here, I present a comprehensive review of published site locations and radiocarbon dates from Epipalaeolithic, Neolithic, and early Chalcolithic sites in the Zagros mountains and foothills. Computational techniques—Bayesian calibration, summed radiocarbon modelling, and spatiotemporal aoristic analyses—are used to explore and refine this large dataset. The initial results suggest a poor fit with current typological chronologies of most periods, including the critical Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic transition, highlighting the need for formal integration of absolute and relative dating evidence into models of regional chronology. I also present a preliminary analysis of long-term settlement patterns and demographic trends in the Zagros based on the radiocarbon and site catalogue datasets.