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The Movius Line

In 1948 Hallam Movius delineated a boundary across Eurasia separating Paleolithic hand ax industries from those without hand axes. The "Movius Line," as it became known, ran from the Caucasus Mountains across south Central Asia and northeast India. Sites containing hand axes and other large bifacial tools were restricted to regions west of the line, while chopper and flake-tool industries were to be found east of the line. Ever since then, archaeologists have been trying to understand the meaning of the Movius Line. The dating of the earliest human remains and archaeological sites in Eurasia to as much as 1.7 million years ago has altered the picture in recent years. It now seems that the oldest industries outside Africa—including per­haps those easts of the Movius Line—antedate the hand ax, which first ap­pears in Africa about 1.65 million years ago. In fact, hand axes do not show up in Eurasia until about 1.4 million years ago. Furthermore, recent dates on archaic human fossils in the Far East now suggest that there may have been relatively little evolutionary change there until the arrival of modern humans. Thus the simplest explanation of the Movius Line is that it reflects the early movement of Homo into eastern Eurasia with pre-hand ax technology that remained essentially unchanged until the spread of mod­ern humans.

It also appears that the Movius Line extends north of 42° into Central Europe. Pre-Neanderthal sites east of Switzerland—or roughly longitude 12° East—contain chopper and flake-tool assemblages like those of the East Asian industries. The sites are much less common than those in Western Eu­rope, perhaps because they represent the margins of the human geographic range at this time. They include Bilzingsleben and Schoningen in eastern Germany and Vertesszollos in Hungary, as well as the site of Korolevo, which lies at the easternmost edge of the Danubian Basin. The human skeletal remains associated with these sites reinforce the im­pression that they form a group distinct from that of the West European sites. Fragments of the back of the skull (occipital bone) from both Bil­zingsleben and Vertesszollos exhibit very primitive features and are said to resemble Homo erectus.


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