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The Near (or Middle) East is an ambiguous term that refers to Southwest Asia eastwards from the Mediterranean up to and including Iran. The region encompasses Anatolia, the Levant, Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Arabia and, sometimes, Transcaucasia. Prehistoric research throughout the region has been patchy, with a notable historical bias on the Levant (as an offshoot from “biblical” archaeology); this encompasses the area bounded between the Taurus/Zagros and the Red Sea on the one hand, and the Mediterranean and the Arabian Desert on the other. Relatively little research was conducted throughout much of Anatolia or Iran, although this has begun to change in recent years. Within the Arabian Peninsula, Late/Terminal Pleistocene research is almost nonexistent.
Pioneering prehistoric research in the Near East was Eurocentric in outlook, as demonstrated by the initial unilinear six-stage model proposed for the Upper Palaeolithic of the Levant by Neuville (1934) and modified by Garrod (1951). While their model was based on cave and rock shelter sequences in Mount Carmel and the Judean Desert, the nomenclature used was originally European, as were the criteria for defining the various local entities through the sequence. Indeed, even much later, changes and variants observed in the local archaeological record often continued to be measured against the European “yardstick” (e.g., Bordes 1977).