The Danube has long been considered a "highway" for the prehistoric hominin colonization of Europe. However, its role in the two most significant episodes of colonization - the first peopling of Europe in the Lower-Middle Pleistocene, and Late Pleistocene colonization by anatomically modern humans - is presently a matter of hypothesis based on the locations of only a few key archaeological sites. Much of Eastern Europe has a particularly low density of known sites, in part due to the thick loess deposits blanketing the region which provide a challenging environment for archaeological survey. Our project, the Lower Danube Survey (LoDanS), aims to discover new Paleolithic sites and to reassess previously identified sites in the southeastern Romanian loess steppe between the Danube River and the Black Sea. Here we present the preliminary results of our first three seasons (2010-2012) of geoarchaeological survey and excavation in the lower Danube basin. We revisit and reexamine the lithostratigraphic and lithic data available from previously known sites in the region. We also provide new luminescence ages from one of these sites, Cuza Vodă, and confirm its previously proposed Middle Paleolithic antiquity. We describe three newly discovered stratified Paleolithic sites, which together with existing sites confirm occupation of the Romanian loess steppe during the Lower, Middle and Paleolithic. Additional preliminary work at a nearby geological loess profile provides valuable paleoenvironmental context for hominin occupation of the region throughout the Pleistocene. Our investigations elucidate strategies and prospects for new site discoveries in open loess steppe landscapes such as those of Eastern Europe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes