Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

Advanced search
Vol 44, No 3 (2016)
View or download the full issue PDF (Russian) | PDF


3-36 319

This study explores the origin and development of the Middle Paleolithic in the Levant—a region critical for understanding the dispersal of anatomically modern humans. The technological and typological features of the regional Middle Paleolithic industry indicate its distinctiveness, opposing it to other contemporaneous industries of Africa and Eurasia. Some peculiarities concern reduction techniques relating to the emergence and spread of the Levallois and blade technique, which had local Acheulo-Yabrudian roots. The Levantine Middle Paleolithic industry was associated with both anatomically modern humans and Palestinian Neanderthals, who had originated during the Middle Pleistocene from a taxon that was an outcome of hybridization between Homo heidelbergensis and local archaic hominins.

37-46 215

This article is the first publication to analyze faunal remains from early complexes (layers VII and VI) at the multilayer settlement of Sagan-Zaba II, situated on the western shore of Lake Baikal. We discuss species composition of fauna from the site as well as associated radiocarbon dates, age and sex designations, spatial distribution, and their overall selection as it relates to site seasonality. We address the previously-defi ned potential offset between uncalibrated dates from remains of ungulates and seals at the site, relating to the problem of “old” carbon in Lake Baikal. For layer VII, this offset is 682 years on average, and for layer VI it is 509 years. Taking the offset from nerpa bones into account, layers VII and VI now appear to date to the period between 9120 and 7880 cal BP. An analysis of faunal materials from the early complexes of the Sagan-Zaba II settlement indicates that inhabitants of this site hunted nerpa seals, ungulates, and other mammals as well as birds and fi sh, demonstrating a complex use of natural resources. Most likely, sites featured short-term, seasonal occupations, as indicated by the distribution of hearths and other materials, the thickness of hearth features, and the absence of specialized production areas. Results of an analysis of dentine layers from cross-sections of nerpa teeth as well as the presence of faunal bones that are only available during the hotter months of the year in the Cis-Baikal region, are consistent with a model of spring and summer site use.


47-55 253

The equipment of a riding horse is a key element in the material culture of nomadic pastoralists, very informative in terms of the ethnic and cultural history of various nomadic groups of the Scythian, Hunno-Sarmatian, and Old Turkic periods, when horses were buried with their owners. This equipment is highly relevant to assessing the age of the burial. We describe wooden saddletrees from a Hunno-Sarmatian Age cemetery Yaloman II in the Altai and compare them with similar fi nds from other places. Technological features of cantle, front, and bars are assessed, the tools needed to make them are evaluated, technological operations involved in assembling the saddletree are listed, and a graphic reconstruction of the wooden saddletree is proposed.

56-62 226

In 2008, a long iron sword dating to the Scythian Age was found near Klyuchi, northern Altai. It has a kidney-shaped guard and a pommel sculptured as two griffi n heads and decorated with gold. The grip is braided with gold wire. The archaic design of the guard and the grip as well as the zoomorphic pommel suggest that the sword is no later than 6th–early 5th centuries BC. The realistic way of rendering griffi n heads evidently originated in the east of the Scythian world somewhat earlier than in the west, where their imitations with claw-shaped pommels circulated from the 5th–4th centuries BC onward. A large series of Scythian Age swords and daggers, found incidentally, comes from the forest-steppe Altai. Many of them have broken or bent blades, implying that they had a ritual function. Three more long iron swords dating to the early Scythian Age were found in the south of the Ob-Irtysh watershed. Because prestigious weapons of that type are more numerous in those regions than elsewhere, they probably originated in an area which included the northern Altai as its easternmost part.

63-71 230

The study examines above-ground frame buildings and their numerous parallels in various cultures. In Western Siberia, these structures occur throughout an area from the forest-steppe to the northern taiga and over a time span from the Chalcolithic to the Middle Ages. They were especially popular during the Bronze to Iron Age transition. On settlements, remains of these buildings usually look like oval or rounded areas raised above the ground and surrounded by shallow pits or grooves and sometimes by low earthen curbs. Recent ethnographic studies among the Selkups of the Upper Taz, Krasnoselkupsky District, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District, demonstrate that natives of the northern taiga have been using such constructions until the present time. These frame dwellings, shaped like truncated pyramids, had no foundation pits and were covered with sand and turf. They were called poy-mat, which means “wooden house” in Selkup. Poy-mat was a seasonal dwelling which, in the 20th century, was used by hunters and poor reindeer herders in winter. Our fi ndings reveal parallels between Selkup and archaeological dwellings and allow us to reconstruct the appearance of ancient buildings, their construction, materials, and usage. We show that this type of buildings had several adaptive advantages, which contributed to its viability over centuries.

72-78 216

Owing to its geographic position Eastern Kazakhstan has long been a cultural crossroads region. During the Scytho-Siberian Age, it was a place where cultures of southern Siberia, Sayan-Altai, Northern and Central Kazakhstan, Zhetysu, etc., interacted, as evidenced by the “Scythian triad”—weapons, horse harness, and animal style. Here we address one of its key elements, horse harness, specifi cally new fi nds from Gerasimovka in the Ulan District of Eastern Kazakhstan. They are relevant to certain aspects of the early nomadic material culture in the eastern fringes of the Saka-Siberian world. These items show signifi cant variation, sometimes within one and the same cemetery. Parallels to the Gerasimovka fi nd suggest that it is contemporaneous with the Arzhan stage of the early Scythian culture, and that during that time Eastern Kazakhstan played a major role in migratory processes. Recent fi ndings relating to early Scytho-Siberian cultures indicate the critical importance of chronology and cultural ties for reconstructing ethno-cultural processes in Early Iron Age Eurasia.

79-86 278

A “caster’s cache” discovered at Tartas-1 cemetery in the Baraba forest-steppe is described and compared with other similar fi nds. Caches are very rare in Siberia. Because descriptions are incomplete, their total number is unknown. The Tartas-1 cache was found in a rectangular pit close to Late Krotovo (Cherno-Ozerye) burials. The infi ll of the pit contained a mandible, part of a scapula and an incisor of a horse, a rib fragment and fragments of cranium of a cow, and potsherds from at least three vessels. The cache consisted of fi fteen items: a whetstone, a bone arrowhead, two copper ingots, a fragment of a bracelet with spiral end, a bronze needle, six fl uted cylindrical beads, and three bronze knife-like pendants. Parallels to each artifact are discussed. Especially noteworthy are standard copper ingots used for storing and transporting metal during trade operations. Evidently, metal items in this cache were laid in for future use in manufacture or trade. The cache might as well have been ritual. All its items are typical of Late Krotovo (Cherno-Ozerye) culture of early or mid-2nd millennium BC.

87-92 192

Bone and horn tools are a highly informative category of artifacts. Variously sized and shaped projectile (spear, harpoon, arrow, and dart) points spanning the periods from the Paleolithic to the recent centuries are of special importance. In this article, we review the most noteworthy directions in Western (European and North American) experimental research done in the 20th and early 21st century, outline the results of our own experiments in using bone points, and discuss parallels among Siberian and Eastern European prehistoric cultures. In our experiments with an archery bow, special attention was paid to fastening the arrowhead to the shaft and to properties of the material (bone and horn). Most experimenters believe that deformation of bone points is a reliable indicator of their artifi cial nature and of the ways they were used in hunting (projectile versus skin dressing), warfare, or ritual activities. The latter include symbolic shooting at rock drawings before hunting and at landscape features such as crevices and trees, as exemplified by a ritual practiced by Californian Native Americans.

93-100 149

During the excavations of Tara Fortress, conducted since 2009, numerous structures and artifacts made of organic materials were revealed in 17th–18th century habitation levels at a depth of 2.5–4 m: remains of wooden dwellings and utility constructions, leather footwear, wooden chess fi gures, children’s toys, wooden and birch-bark vessels, dashers, birch-bark and pine-bark fl oats. A number of artifacts woven, knitted, and wattled from vegetable fibers and horsehair were discovered. They fall into several categories: textiles of linen, twill, and rep weave, ropes and cords, and vessels for storing solids. Their study allowed us to reconstruct the techniques of their manufacture, to compare these artifacts with similar fi nds from Western Siberia, to assess the conditions of manufacture, and to evaluate the weavers’ skills.

101-110 218

Chalcolithic ceramics from Novoilyinka III in Western Siberia (early 3rd millennium BC) was analyzed in terms of manufacturing technology and decoration techniques with special regard to tools for applying decoration. Two ornamental traditions relating to clay selection and fabric processing are described. The principal tradition was the use of low-ductile ferrous clay tempered with fine sand, down, and organic matter. The less common practice was to use high-ductile clay tempered with grit and grog but not down. In decoration as well, two traditions are evident. Most vessels tempered with down are decorated with non-comb imprints such as pits. Vessels made of low-ductile clay and tempered with grit and grog but not down are mostly decorated with comb imprints. The latter technology, evidently attesting to a blend of traditions, is unusual and is paralleled by ceramics with comb-pit, pit-comb, and dimple decoration distributed from the forest zone of Eastern Europe to the Upper Ob. The closest resemblance is seen with ceramics of the Bairyk and Kiprino types from Baraba and the Upper Ob, respectively. The distinctness of the Novoilyinka III pottery may be explained by the peripheral (easternmost) position of the site within this community.

111-120 478

This article examines the shatra – ritual votive fi gurines made by Altaian hunters, and their relevance to the history of chess. Based on the fi eld studies in an Altaian village, where the author has been conducting research since 2005, and on the museum and archival data collected in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, and Gorno-Altaysk, social relations mirrored by the shatra are examined through the lens of Altaian ethno-cultural history. Proceeding from Edmund Leech’s interpretation of ritual, the study reveals the communicative function of shatra and its relationship to the land and identity claims of people participating in the ritual. The concept of “return address” is introduced and applied to Altaian ritual. The local community is not only an “addressee”; it has agency in communications between human and nonhuman beings. It is concluded that the shatra may be metaphorically interpreted as a knot in the relationship network connecting humans, spirits, landscape, things, and materials.

121-129 188

The ethnic geography of Bashkiria immediately before and during its absorption by the Russian Empire is a matter of debate because few of any relevant written or archaeological sources are available. The only reliable source is the toponymy and hydronymy of Bashkir historical legends and genealogies (shezhere). Ethnographers believe that legends originated at the early stage of feudalism whereas according to shezhere they are contemporaneous with the absorption of Bashkiria by the empire. Eventually, legends became the only documents proving Bashkirs’ ownership of land. The preserved legends and shezhere jointly mention some eighty names of rivers and mountains matching modern toponyms of the southern Ural and mirroring ethnic geography of medieval Bashkiria. Our comparative analysis suggests that the boundaries of “Old Bashkiria” passed between the Dem River valley and the western foothill of the southern Ural, as well as along the eastern foothill of the southern Ural from the Miass River in the north to the Sakmara River in the south. During the 15th and 16th centuries, these borders remained relatively stable, shifting mainly southward because of the annexation of territories emptied after Ivan IV had conquered the Kazan Khanate and ousted the Nogais from southern Ural.

130-138 171

Russian mythological characters relating to the domestic space are described on the basis on folkloric, ethnographic, and lexicographic sources. The integration of evidence has revealed transformations undergone by views of the male and female goblins (domovoy and kikimora, respectively), allowing us to compare local beliefs and stories featuring them in urban and rural areas of Russia and to reconstruct common Russian ideas of goblins with reference to the notion of linguistic and cultural literacy. The results demonstrate that the idea of domovoy is quite popular even among urban dwellers, generally matching traditional Russian beliefs. The domovoy is believed to be a home and family patron, either invisible or small and shaggy, an old man or a tomcat, supposed to be entertained with food and invited for a housewarming. Unlike the image of domovoy, that of kikimora has undergone substantial changes. Modern urban residents view kikimora mostly as an untidy ugly woman, sometimes called kikimora bolotnaya, the second word being an adjective of boloto, ‘bog’, thus turning her into a forest rather than domestic spirit. The idea of kikimora as a home spirit is still held by villagers, who view her either as a ghost or as a poltergeist-like doll. Domestic mythical characters, then, have changed without losing their vigor.

139-149 235

Dental data are used to test two hypotheses as to whether the “eastern” traits of the Mesolithic and Neolithic populations of the Russian Plain are due to Mongoloid admixture or to evolutionary conservatism, specifi cally to the retention of features peculiar to the Upper Paleolithic groups. Frequencies of nonmetric traits, both those used in standard population studies and so-called markers of generalized conservatism, were studied in dental samples from Yuzhny Oleniy Ostrov and Vasilyevka-3 (Mesolithic), Fomino (Ryazan variant of Pit-Comb Ware culture), Karavaikha (Kargopol variant of the same culture), Vovnigi-1 (Kiev-Cherkassy variant of the Neolithic Dnieper-Donets culture), and Vovnigi-2 (Azov-Dnieper variant of the same culture). Published dental data on Zvejnieki (Mesolithic Kunda cuture), Yasinovatka and Nikolskoye (Dnieper-Donets culture), Sakhtysh-2a (Lyalovo variant of the Neolithic Pit-Comb Ware culture), and Upper Paleolithic samples from Europe were used for comparison. Both A.A. Zubov’s standard protocol and C.G. Turner’s ASUDAS were employed. The results suggest that multiple evolutionary processes were involved. Northeastern European Mesolithic dentitions indicate both Mongoloid admixture and continuity with Upper Paleolithic groups. Mesolithic series from Ukraine are more specialized in the Caucasoid direction while also showing certain Upper Paleolithic traits. In the Neolithic, the dental differences between northern and southern Caucasoids decrease, and there is a gradual reduction of both Mongoloid and Upper Paleolithic characteristics. Nonetheless, people of the Pit-Comb Ware culture, like those of Dnieper-Donets culture display certain Upper Paleolithic traits, which are the most evident in Vovnigi-2.

150-157 213

Remains of two individuals, a mandible and an atlas, from a stratifi ed Upper Paleolithic site Afontova Gora II, dating to 16–12 ka BP, are described. The mandible was of a 14–15-year-old female. Certain nonmetric traits indicate its anatomical modernity, whereas the dimensions are closer to those of modern adolescents than to those of Upper Paleolithic individuals of similar age. The mandible of the Předmostí-5 female, while being close in biological age, shows a much greater projective length and a higher and wider ramus. Mandibles of Upper Paleolithic children from Sungir are more robust and show a larger intercondylar width and a higher and wider ramus. The fact that the dimensions of the Afontova Gora specimen match the modern standards can be due to a diachronic tendency toward gracilization. Dimensions of the atlas suggest that it belonged to a female aged 20–25. The paucity of data on the fi rst cervical vertebrae of Upper Paleolithic humans makes it impossible to evaluate the taxonomic status of that fi nd.

ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)