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Location: Western Iran
Cronology: Late Pleistocene
Director: Behrouz Bazgir and Andreu Ollé
The Khorramabad Valley (western Iran) is a narrow passage connecting the northern highlands of Zagros with the southern lowland of Khuzistan and constitutes one of the most important passageways for both humans and animals to cross the Zagros mountain range. From a geological point of view, this valley is located in the "high and folded Zagros" zone, composed of both limestone and conglomerate formations. These geological formations contain a large number of caves and rock-shelters, as well as rich raw material sources which played a significant role in having access to knapable materials and eventually gave advantage for hominins to occupy the area.
Despite efforts by pioneering researchers initiated at some of the caves and rock-shelters in the 1960's, our understanding of the early colonization of this area has remained sparse compared to the Levant and Europe (Hole and Flannery 1967, Speth 1971, Baumler and Speth 1993, Otte et al.2007). The lack of reliable dates, mostly carried out in the 1960's, as well as the poor excavation methods applied derived in scanty documentation of cultural materials from the area; this situation underlines the need for more advanced technologies and techniques using regional multidisciplinary studies of the sites in order to re-evaluate and update the literature about this significant region.
As a result, from 2009, recent archaeological works started with an extensive survey of the area by Bazgir, which led to our excavation season in 2011-12 (Bazgir et al. 2014).Initial results showed a great potential for the study of the transition from the Middle to Upper Paleolithic and, more specifically, the emergence of Modern humans and the extinction of the last Neanderthals. Considering its importance, we signed a five-year scientific collaboration: the so-called “Memorandum of Understanding” (MoU) between the "Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social" (IPHES) and the "Research Institute of Cultural Heritage and Tourism of I.R of Iran" (RICHT), to continue this research in Iran. Within the frame-work of this agreement, in 2014 we excavated Kaldar Cave, which is of considerable archeological importance. As a result, new data provided by the ongoing excavations at the Khorramabad sites is considerably helpful in understanding and reconstructing the early human settlement of Central Zagros. Furthermore, this project will be the first step for studying the entire ensemble of Paleolithic sites of the Khorramabad Valley using a regional multidisciplinary approach, in order to obtain a clear view of its position in the global Paleolithic context and subsequently to update the literature of this significant region. We also aim to explore the area more carefully to document any possible older evidence relevant to human occupation.