Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

Advanced search
Vol 45, No 2 (2017)
View or download the full issue PDF (Russian) | PDF


3-15 531

Zaraysk is one of the best studied and known Russian Upper Paleolithic sites of the Kostenki-Willendorf type. One of the most intriguing findings of excavations at that site concerns an unusual group of artifacts, tentatively interpreted as ceramics. The article gives their detailed description and addresses their spatial distribution. The items have been subjected to firing, but the chemical and mineralogical analysis suggests that they were made of ocher or highly ferruginized clay unsuitable for manufacturing ordinary ceramics. Poor preservation caused by taphonomic processes precludes a reliable reconstruction of the original morphology and function of the items. Their shape, however, is rather standard and is paralleled by the “non-figurative ceramics” of Pavlov and Dolní Věstonice, whose function is not clear either. It appears that the Zaraysk people tried to reproduce the Central European prototypes in terms of form and function, but, intentionally or not, used a raw material suitable for making a red pigment rather than ceramics. Formally, the Zaraysk pieces can hardly be described as ceramics proper, possibly evidencing unsuccessful copying. The final answer, then, hinges on the true purposes  of the manufacturers.

16-25 506

Two Neolithic sanctuaries are compared: Koksharovsky Kholm in the middle Ural and Chertova Gora in western Siberia. Both apparently represent related but separate populations represented by the Koshkino-Boborykino and Kozlov-Poludenka decorative traditions dating to the 7th–5th millennia BC (calibrated). Sanctuaries were arranged on high salient promontories. At Koksharovsky Kholm, the ritual meaning of the place was accentuated by two ditches separating the sacral space from the dwelling area. Another attribute of this sanctuary were variously sized and shaped structures made of wooden poles or slabs. At Koksharovsky Kholm, remains of much smaller (less than 1 × 1 m) structures resembling chests were found, and at Chertova Gora, birch-bark box-like containers. Stone tools from the two sites differ. Parallels include intact or broken clay vessels, metal rods with incisions, flint arrowheads, etc. Some appear to have been made for ritual purposes, and some were broken intentionally. Offerings of artifacts were accompanied by sacrificing wild animals, birds, and fishes. At Chertova Gora, an offering of hemp grains was found. Parallels with Mansi, Khanty, and Udmur may imply ideological continuity.

26-34 532

The article addresses chopping tools (axes, adzes, and gouges) from the Chalcolithic peatbog sites at Sakhtysh, Karelia, associated with the Volosovo culture. This group was first separated on the basis of technological and typological criteria, and their connection with the Volosovo component of these culturally and temporally heterogeneous sites was later verified with a detailed spatial analysis. The main traits of the Volosovo tools match those of the Russian-Karelian type, found in Russian Karelia at Chalcolithic sites with Asbestos and Porous Ware. The analysis of preforms suggests that their production followed a certain technological and typological model. The basic type of tool had a trapezoid or triangular cross-section, which was formed at the knapping stage and could then be transformed into a half-oval. Knapping was done with the punch technique, also evidenced by axes with a tetrahedral cross-section, widespread in the Neolithic of northern, central, and eastern Europe. The Volosovo chopping tools at sites with asbestos ware in the Upper Volga region and Karelia, then, follow the same single technological tradition. Its distribution area cannot be delimited thus far, but it could extend beyond that of the axes with a tetrahedral cross-section.

35-44 522

The article outlines the results of the analysis of cultural layers and natural soil horizons at the Neolithic and Chalcolithic settlement Kochegarovo-1, and of the modern soil in its vicinities. The distribution of chemical elements and the associated geochemical ratios in the archaeological profile were compared to the background values. Six chemical elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and strontium) form distinct concentration zones within the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultural layers, especially within the latter. The most informative geochemical ratios are CIA, Rb/Sr, Ba/Sr, MnO/Al2O3, (CaO+MgO)/ Al2O3, and Zr/TiO2. They allow us to reconstruct environmental conditions and subsistence activities at the site, which evidently emerged when the hydrological situation of the region had changed in the Neolithic. After the channel of the Miass River had migrated, new areas of land with semi-hydromorphic landscapes were exposed. The seasonal Neolithic camp was located on the river bank. In the Chalcolithic, the Miass River had continued to recede, and new areas of land appeared near the settlement. The environment remained semi-hydromorphic. The peak of subsistence activities, evidenced by maximal settlement area and largest estimated population size, coincided with the Chalcolithic, when occupation became permanent. Indicators of anthropogenic activity are present at all occupation stages, especially at the Chalcolithic stage. The analysis confirmed that Neolithic and Chalcolithic populations of the region subsisted by hunting, gathering, and fishing.


45-55 1086

The Seima-Turbino (ST) transcultural phenomenon was unique for the Eurasian Bronze Age. Its very rare but highly specific memorial sanctuaries and randomly found bronze artifacts are scattered across a 7000-km-long, gently sloping arс spanning territories from northern China to the Baltic and the Lower Dniester––nearly 4 mln km2. However, until recently, no reliable radiocarbon database relating to ST was available. The situation changed after the discovery of the Shaytanka memorial sanctuary in the Middle Ural and its detailed excavation. As a result, a considerable series of radiocarbon dates appeared, enabling us to arrive at a more reliable pattern of absolute chronology of ST on a vast territory from western Siberia (Sopka, Tartas) to the Upper Volga drainage (Yurino). The earlier dates in the eastern part of the ST distribution area uphold the theory concerning the ultimate source of a long-range east-to-west migration. New important features in the overall pattern of dates on the vast territories of the Eurasian forest and forest-steppe zones make it possible to reconstruct the nature of contacts between the ST people and representatives of other cultures, especially those of the Abashevo-Sintashta-Petrovka community advancing in the west-to-east direction.

56-61 450

Beads are the most frequent finds in 1st–5th century AD female burials at Tarasovo on the Middle Kama – the largest FinnoUgric cemetery, dating to the Great Barbarian Migration era. Larger beads are common in burials of women aged 17–45, whereas seed beads were typically worn by girls and young women aged 13–29. This was probably because unmarried girls wore beanies embroidered with beads and bronze ornaments. Also, variously sized beads were attached to headbands, framing its bottom edges in one or more lines. Single or double beads found near the crania suggest that they were amulets. In one and two strand necklaces, beads alternated with bronze ornaments. Necklaces were often parts of gift sets, some of which are completely preserved including the organic base. Larger beads were used as pendants. Some of them decorated strips, used for appending knives and other utensils to belts. All these ways of using beads are still practiced by Finno-Ugric women in the Ural area.

62-70 474

Rural landscapes, especially those affected by plowing, mostly reveal no outward signs of archaeological sites. Best preserved parts of the buildings are cellars, utility pits, and other underground objects not visually observable on the surface. A new strategy is proposed for gaining preliminary information about the outlines and inner structure of medieval settlements of that type. It is based on a comparison of geophysical findings with those of drilling, pilot excavations, and tendencies in the distribution of surface finds. The application of this strategy to the study of various types of medieval unfortified sites in the Suzdal Opolye, central Russia, including large settlements (Kibol-5, Shekshovo-2, and Bolshoye Davydovskoye-2), a stratified site (Ves-5), and small unstratified sites (Vishenki-3 and Kistysh-3), demonstrates its efficiency. Specifically, magnetic survey has allowed us to delineate the borders of the settlements, locate densely inhabited areas, production complexes, and sometimes pits. Electric survey proves more efficient for assessing spatial characteristics (size and shape) of sites. The excavation area, however, is selected according to the magnetic prospecting data.

71-77 557

Unusual bowls, one intact and three fragmented, from a medieval Mari cemetery at Rusenikha, in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, are described. Based on coins, the cemetery dates to the 11th century. Results of the chemical analysis of the metal are presented. The bowls are made of “white bronze” and are decorated with a geometric pattern on the inside. Similar items are rather frequent in medieval (9th–11th century) Mari cemeteries (Veselovo, Dubovsky, Nizhnyaya Strelka), and isolated finds are known on the Oka and Middle Volga. Numerous parallels relate to Western Siberia, most notably to the Ob Basin, among works of the 10th–11th century toreutic art of Eastern Iran and Southwestern Central Asia. Certain features of the Rusenikha bowls offer a deeper view of the technology, decoration, and features of individual artistic style. It has also become possible to specify the date of those vessels and places of their manufacture. The routes whereby they were imported to the Middle Volga might have varied, but the principal one, passing across Volga Bulgaria, had been taken by Ibn Fadlan in the early 10th century. This stretch of the Great Silk Road connecting East and West was especially important from the 9th to the mid-11th century, when the Kipchak-Cuman tribes established hegemony in the Eastern European steppes.

78-86 812

The borderland between the West Siberian Plain and the Kuznetsk-Salair mountain ridge is a narrow strip of the Mariinsk forest-steppe, which was a transit and contact area between two ancient cultural centers: one on the Upper Ob and the other on the Middle Yenisei. Archaeological finds from that area are especially interesting. One of important geographic features of the Mariinsk forest-steppe is Archekas mountain. About a dozen archaeological sites on this mountain date mostly to the Bronze and Early Iron Ages. In October 2015, several bronze items were found there: a cauldron, four arrow points, a “mirror”, a deer figurine, and a dagger, whose handle is decorated in the Scytho-Siberian style. All items are cast of stannic bronze; a small amount of arsenic is also present in certain cases. The article describes the context and the location of the find, the items, and their cultural affinities. Despite the generally Scythian appearance of all the artifacts and the wide distribution area of their parallels, we demonstrate that the assemblage belongs to the Tagar culture and, by the Tagar standards, should date to 600–400 BC. However, the artifacts resemble those manufactured in the forest-steppe periphery and were probably custom-made for the Kulai people of the taiga zone. If so, the date must be younger and fall within the 400–200 BC interval. The analysis of assemblages with cauldrons allowed us to assume that the Archekas assemblage was ritual, associated with a sanctuary.

87-96 816

The article describes a series of Bronze Age metal axes from the forest-steppe zone of the Altai. Most are random finds without definite cultural or chronological attribution. We provide a detailed description of four specimens from Bor-Forpost, Mamontovo, Karpovo, and Severny, owned by various museums of the Altai Territory. The chemical composition of alloys is assessed by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry. Results are discussed with reference to bronze metallurgy, sources of copper ore, and typological parallels. Chronology of each type of axes is tentatively evaluated in the context of Middle and Late Bronze Age cultures of the Ob-Irtysh watershed and adjoining regions.

97-106 479

The study describes the morphology of prehistoric wooden paddles from the Trans-Urals and from Stone Age peat-bog sites in Eastern and Western Europe. Their general technological features are evaluated, the archaeological context is analyzed, and some proposals concerning chronology are made. Considerable regional variation notwithstanding, the general evolution of blades is from wide spatular to narrow elongate. Apparently, the optimal paddle shape, whereby it could be used for both rowing and pushing off, had been elaborated by the Early Chalcolithic. The eastern Baltic paddles differ from their Trans-Uralian counterparts by leafshaped blades with narrow tips. Although it has been traditionally believed that people in both regions mostly traversed shallow waterlogged lakes, certain petroglyphs point to a different use of Eastern Baltic paddles. The handles of certain Eastern European and Trans-Uralian paddles are shaped like heads of waterfowl; these rare specimens may have been destined for ritual purposes. The Trans-Uralian sample of Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age paddles may be the largest worldwide. Its distinctive features are standard proportions, composite handles, occasionally decorated with ornithomorphic representations. Certain small paddles with short handles may have served for nonutilitarian purposes, possibly related to ritual, play, household, or manufacture.

107-112 583

A rare Sogdian golden plaque from Zeravshan, Uzbekistan, dating to the Hellenistic period, is described. Results of the sciencebased analysis are relevant to the assessment of sources of gold and technology. Stylistic analysis helps to establish cultural ties and contacts between various manufacturing centers of the Hellenistic era in Central Asia. In terms of decoration, the Zeravshan plaque is indirectly paralleled by several Early Iron Age toreutic items from southern Siberia and Central Asia, specifically those from Peter the Great Siberian collection, Oxus and Kargaly treasure hoards, and Tillya-tepe. The central part of the Zeravshan specimen is reminiscent of Near Eastern and Scythian toreutic art and of Xiongnu bronzes. Similarly rendered heads of animals are found on late first millennium BC carved bone artifacts from the southwestern Siberian forest-steppe (Novotroitskoye, Ust-Ishtovka). This similarity may be due to close contacts between various manufacturing centers in the Early Iron Age. The distinctive feature of the Zeravshan plate is its small size. The artifact evidently belongs to the Yuezhi-Kushan cultural complex (200 BC–100 AD). A high content of gold in the plaque may be due to its having been manufactured from native gold, which is a rather archaic technique.

113-122 492

Judging by modern studies and written sources, the town of Albazin, founded more than 330 years ago, had lost its western rampart facing the Amur and 17 % of the enclosed area (the latter totaled 7630 m2 in 1684). Given the reports stating that the fort had a garrison of 222 men, it could not have accommodated 826 inhabitants during the 1686 siege. It is proposed that in the 1680s, owing to a military threat, Fort Albazin turned into a fortified town numbering more than 1000 inhabitants. The Cossacks used a nearby Mohe or Daur fortification, consisting of three ramparts and moats, to erect an external defense belt around the fort with a piece of land accommodating 53 houses. During the first three months of the war, more than 800 Cossacks defended the town from the Manchu attacks, after which the surviving defenders took refuge in the fort. The estimated population size at that time is 310, including 241 persons buried in dugouts, 66 survivors of the siege (women and children among them), and three Cossacks who left the fort in November 1686 to report on the siege.

123-131 482

The article deals with the shifts of focus on general versus local elements in traditional Russian festive rites, as mirrored by the works of 19th–20th century Russian ethnographers. Two periods are described. The first lasted from the 1830s to the 1970s; the second began in the 1980s–1990s and is ongoing. The first period falls into two stages. From the 1830s to the 1950s, ethnographers sought to disclose common features, and in the 1960s and 1970s, they were interested in both general regularities and local traits in Russian and Slavic (specifically Eastern Slavic) festivals. Studies of this period were based on a macro approach in that they used a wide range of sources relating to Russian, Slavic, and other European ethnic groups. As a result, common elements of Russian ritualism and their spatial variations were revealed, and broad generalizations were proposed. During the second period, the geographic scope narrowed. Boundaries between regional and local variants of festive traditions were delineated both in synchrony and diachrony. The attention has shifted to common Russian versus local elements within separate festivals and their parts rather than groups of rites within the annual cycle as before.

132-141 502

The study describes the headdresses worn by girls and women in a group of Russian Old Believers known as Bespopovtsy (Pomortsy, Priestless Brethren), who had moved from northwestern Russia to the Lower Pechora in the late 1700s, and currently live in the Ust-Tsilemsky District of the Komi Republic. Some headdresses were collected during my field studies in 2010–2014 in Ust-Tsilma villages; others, by A.V. Zhuravsky in the early 1900s (those are owned by Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), St. Petersburg). A detailed description and analysis of headdresses and scarves are provided, as well as the ways they were worn and fastened, and their vernacular names. On the basis of this analysis, ethno-cultural ties of Russian Old Believers with Russian and non-Russian groups professing official Orthodoxy are examined. The functions of the headgear, related beliefs, and everyday and ritual use are discussed. The article is supplemented by stories told by informants about their clothing, and illustrated with originals photographs.

142-148 714

The article describes the principles and prospects of using the BIM technology, which was for the first time used to reconstruct wooden Buddhist temples, assess the cultural information relating to them, and evaluate the impact of environment and exploitation. Preserving and restoring such temples is difficult because their construction includes wooden brackets—dougong. The BIM technique and our own method based on treatises about old Chinese architecture enabled us to generate an information model of the temple (a new means of information processing) and to test it for geometric consistency. To create a library of elements, the Autodesk Revit software was used. To test the efficiency of the library we applied the information model to the Shengmudian temple in the Shanxi province. The adaptation of the dougong library elements to wooden Buddhist temples provides a possibility to apply such techniques for generating a unified system regardless of the software.

149-157 482

Excavations at Late Bronze and Early Iron Age cemeteries in the Lori Province of Armenia have yielded 123 human skeletons. In this study, we describe traumatic injuries in crania from the Shnogh River basin, dating to 1300–1000 BC, with a view of reconstructing aspects of social and natural environment. The occurrence of traumas is moderately high (15.6–23.7 %) and varies between groups. Cranial traumatism in males was higher than in contemporaneous populations of the Sevan Basin and the Shirak Plain, but it hardly resulted from warfare. We describe one case of decapitation. Five crania evidence surgical intervention, and three of them show healing.

ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)