Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

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Vol 48, No 3 (2020)
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3-32 279

We provide a comprehensive summary of data relating to the origin, chronology, and culture of the Denisovans— a separate hominin population, fi rst described in 2010 on the basis of aDNA extracted from fossils found in Denisova Cave, in the northwestern part of the Russian Altai. We cite the results of morphological and genomic studies of the teeth and postcranial bones of those hominins. On the basis of a large series of optical and radiocarbon dates of the Pleistocene strata of Denisova Cave, the timeline for the hominin evolution in that region is reconstructed. The chronology of the evolutionary events based on aDNA is discussed. We provide a detailed description of stone and bone tools, and ornaments made of various materials, from Denisova habitation horizons. It is demonstrated that the Paleolithic cultural sequence in that cave is the most complete in North and Central Asia, spanning the principal stages of human evolutionary history over the last 300 thousand years. Denisovan origins and their role in the emergence of anatomically modern humans are reconstructed on the basis of a large body of archaeological, skeletal, and genetic data relating to Africa and Eurasia. It is concluded that the Neanderthal and Denisovan genetic legacy in the modern human gene pool indicates the existence of several zones in Africa and Eurasia where H. erectus evolution proceeded independently. The same applies to the evolution of lithic technologies.

33-42 47

This paper deals with numerous ocher remains found in cultural layers 6, 2G, and 2B of the Paleolithic site Kovrizhka IV on the Vitim River, in the Baikal-Patom Highlands (Eastern Siberia). These layers are dated by radiocarbon to the interval of ~19.2–18.3 ka cal BP. In cultural layers 2B and 2G, ocher colored the living fl oors and combustion areas. Stratigraphic observations indicate that this was done at the very beginning of the occupation. In layer 6, traces of ocher were present on an anthropomorphic fi gurine made of mammoth ivory, and pieces of ocher were found near the head of another such fi gurine. In layer 2B, a large piece of ocher was unearthed at the edge of the hearth. Ocher residues were also detected by use-wear analysis on certain artifacts. This variety of patterns suggests different functions of ocher, possibly both symbolic and utilitarian. The mineral composition of ocher was assessed by X-ray diffraction analysis. In all three layers, hematite is associated with quartz. In layer 2G, an additional type of ocher was identifi ed, containing impurities, such as calcite and chlorite. Known sources of ocher are located in the distribution areas of magnetite and hematite ores, over 500 km southwest and southeast of Kovrizhka IV. The importance of ocher in the life of these societies is discussed in light of the archaeological evidence and the longdistance raw material acquisition patterns of ocher.

43-49 24

We describe the largest group of cave sites in Japan known to date. It includes some 50 sites, located in a gorge within the area of the modern Taishaku National Natural Park. Their characteristics are provided and their relevance to the study of the early stages of the Jomon Period is assessed. The study is based on publications, fi eld reports, and samples of artifacts owned by the museums in the Hiroshima Prefecture. The focus is on cave sites in the Chugoku region, their location, structure, inner space, and utility zones in the adjoining territory. Special attention is paid to the reconstruction of sequence in which parts of the cave space were exploited at different stages of the Jomon Period. Archaeological fi nds are described in detail—stone and bone tools, potsherds, and mollusk shells. Their analysis suggests that the Jomon people who lived in those caves subsisted mostly by hunting and freshwater mollusk collecting. Shells of marine mollusks and tools made of sanukite, which is unavailable in the area, indicate trade relations between cave dwellers and people of the adjoining regions, including the sea coast. A conclusion is made that population growth and greater reliance on hunting and fi shing territories rich in vegetation led to the change in lifestyle and subsistence strategies of the Jomon people.


50-58 27

We present the results of an interdisciplinary study of an unusual sample of wool fabric, found at the Jety-Asar-2 fortifi ed site, representing the Jety-Asar culture of the late 4th century BC to early 1st century AD, in the central Turan Plain. We outline the results of the analysis of the dyes and technological characteristics of the fabric. The woven pattern is described in detail. The specimen is compared with the tapestry from Shanpula (Sampul) cemetery in the Hotan oasis, Xinjiang, China. We examine the idea that the Jety-Asar fabric had been manufactured in Shanpula and transported to the Aral basin along the Great Silk Road. Previously, this type of tapestry was believed to have been used only in the Hotan oasis, because no direct parallels with other areas were known. A direct parallel with such a remote westerly region is all the more intriguing. Apparently, colorful strips of woolen tapestry depicting animals, birds, humans, fantastic beings, mountains, and fl owers were in big demand. The tradition, then, may have been distributed much more widely than previously thought. Many anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, plant, and purely decorative motifs have numerous parallels in the Early Iron Age art of the Eurasian steppes, highlands, and piedmont areas. The Shanpula people used such fabric for decorating skirts. In other cultures, it was destined for various purposes.

59-69 43

This study focuses on a petroglyph site of Mount Dyalbak in the northeastern part of Balyktuyul village, in the Ulagansky District, Altai Republic. Images are engraved mostly on horizontal planes of the Devonian limestone of which the mountain slope is composed. We give a detailed description of the documentation methods. Photography was carried out under the oblique natural light, though certain areas of the planes were photographed using fl ash. Engravings were copied mostly on a tablet computer. On the basis of visual observations, the condition of planes with petroglyphs is described, conclusions regarding the principal threats are given, and measures aimed at the preservation of the site are proposed. Rocks and planes with engravings are described in detail. Most images date to the Early Middle Ages. Their motifs and characters have numerous parallels in Central Asian art. There are scenes of hunting, armed fi ghting, and separate pictures of bows and quivers, relating to the cult of weapons and militarism. Two depicted warriors are holding spears with banners. Images of animals include those of mountain goats, reindeer, and boars. Some motifs are unusual: yurts and a pair of Siberian stags, male and female, related to the fertility cult. Some images, such as that of a chariot, date to the Late Bronze Age, while others, like those engraved on a separate small stone, are recent.

70-79 19

This article introduces high-ranking burials of children excavated in 2015 and 2018 at a medieval cemetery Zeleny Yar on the lower Ob. A detailed description of the burial rite is provided, with special reference to the shape and construction of the burials and the position of the bodies. Burial goods include a hatchet, a scabbard, bracelets, and temple rings. The high social status of the children is discussed. The fi nds are compared with those relating to medieval children’s burials in adjacent territories—the Surgut, Novosibirsk, and Tomsk regions of the Ob. Also, ethnographic evidence concerning the social status of 6–7-year-old boys among the indigenous northern minorities are discussed. Archaeological and ethnographic sources suggest that high-ranking burials of children (boys) appear in northwestern Siberia no later than the Middle Ages.

80-89 20

Archaeological studies in the forest-tundra zone of Western Siberia are highly relevant to studying the material culture, social structure, and ethnic history. The presence of permafrost ensures the unique preservation of organics in cultural layers, including timber, which makes it possible to conduct dendrochronological studies (calendar dating of samples, determination of species composition, typological analysis, and the source of the timber origin). In 2011–2012, during the excavations at Fort Nadym, 347 samples of wood were selected for the assessment of the age of wooden structures. The results showed that most samples belonged to three species of trees: Siberian larch (Larix sibirica Ledeb.), Siberian spruce (Picea obovata Ledeb.), and Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica Du Tour). The typological analysis revealed that walls were mostly built from spruce, pine logs, and half-logs, whereas the floors were made from larch and pine. To assess the origin of wood, a new methodological approach was proposed. As a result, it was demonstrated that the main building material was driftwood. This has allowed us to make more accurate interpretations and to specify the years of construction. The analysis indicates three periods of construction / reconstruction: the 1450s–1460s, 1470s–1480s, and 1520s–1570s. The new approach can be applied to other wooden monuments located on the banks of major water arteries of the Siberian forest-tundra zone.

90-98 20

This study addresses Russian iron artifacts from the Narym Selkup cemetery Migalka, dating to the late 1600s to early 1700s. Two most important categories of tools are described—knives and axes. In terms of morphology, knives fall into two groups: straight-backed and those with convex (“humped”) backs. The combination of a “humpbacked” blade, typical of native manufacture, and Russian hilt plates precludes an unambiguous ethnic attribution. Special attention is paid to knives with fi ligree-enamel hilt plates as markers of high socio-economic status. The garniture evidences northern Russian origin. The metallographic analysis of knives (22% of the sample) revealed two technological groups: made of solid steel and welded. Axes, made by Russian artisans, are of the shaft-hole type and fall into four types. The analysis, relating to 42% of the sample, indicates two techniques: welding of a steel blade onto an iron base or a piece of raw steel, and using irregularly carbonized metal for forging the entire axe. Ferrous metal items follow the Russian technological traditions. Three key factors accounted for the spread of Russian artifacts among the natives: “Tsar’s gift” for paying the yasak (tribute); colonization of Siberia followed by the emergence of trade manufacture; and the involvement of natives, specifi cally the Narym Selkups, in the all-Russian market. Our fi ndings attest to the relevance of iron artifacts from archaeological sites to the historical and cultural studies of the colonization period in western Siberia.

99-106 20

We give the fi rst description of an unusual composite bow of the Central Asian type, owned by the Toybokhoy Museum in the Suntarsky District of Yakutia, and provide information about its discovery. We foc us on the details and structural peculiarities of the specimen, and note that this refl ex composite bow differs in terms of construction and technology from those of the Northe rn type used by the Yakuts in the 17th to 19th centuries. It resembles bows of the Central Asian type. Its distinctive features are eight horn and bone frontal plates, four end-plates, and four long edging-plates made of bone. According to folkloric sources and 17th century archival documents, before the Russians migrated to the Lena Territory, the Yakuts had used bone combat bows of the Central Asian type. We cite an archaeological fact demonstrating the use of such bows in Yakutia—a central plate from a composite bow with widening paddle-shaped ends from the mid-15th to early 16th century burial at Sergelyakh. We publish the results of the radiocarbon analysis of the horn plate from the Toybokhoy bow, carried out at the Center for Isotope Research at the University of Groningen. They support the legendary version: the Toybokhoy bow belonged to the brother of the Yakut ruler Tygyn Darkhan, Ala Kyrsyn, who lived in the early 17th century and became the founder of one of the Vilyuy Yakut clans. We conclude that alongside the Northern type bows, the late medieval Yakuts used refl ex bows of the Central Asian type.


107-116 21

This study, based on a trip to the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Region of Qinghai Province, China in August 2018, focuses on the tradition of using wooden nose-rings for managing draught yaks and yak-cow hybrids, still practiced in Tibet. The materials and technology for manufacturing this tool are described, and measurements are provided. I describe variants of the traditional yoke and plow (ard) system used in conjunction with a nose-ring and identify several variants of nose-ring, distinguished by the style of terminus. I investigate seasonality of use, method of piercing, age of animals at piercing, techniques for managing single animals and draught teams, as well as nose-ring durability and advantages of wooden vs. rope forms. Based on a comprehensive comparative historical analysis of materials from Yushu, I suggest that Tibetan ancestors, who had moved there from the northeast in the second half of the 1st millennium BC, introduced wooden nose-ring technology.

117-123 19

This study examines a mysterious item of the Ainu women’s undergarment—the upsor kut, or chakh chanki, which, in ethnographic collections and scholarly texts, is described as a “belt of modesty”. A comparative and historical analysis of Ainu women’s girdles from Hokkaido and Sakhalin was carried out. They are displayed in very small numbers at museums of Russia, Japan, and the UK. These artifacts are rare, as women had to preserve their upsor kut (chakhchanki) from being seen by strangers, especially males. They became a part of late 19th to early 20th century ethnographic collections, because scholars, such as B.O. Piłsudski and N.G. Munro, became trusted by the natives. In the past, Japan’s hard-line policy of assimilation for indigenous peoples, the banning of the Ainu language and traditional culture, and the introduction of schooling and public health service resulted in an even greater secrecy of Ainu women and the gradual decline of the tradition of wearing secret girdles, precluding the carrying out of fi eld studies. The analysis of Ainu linguistic and folkloric materials analyzed by Japanese and European researchers sheds light on the function and meaning of these items of the women’s undergarment. In essence, they had two important functions: determining the maternal lineage and protecting the family and the clan. This suggests that remnants of matrilineal exogamy existed in Ainu patriarchal society, which eventually disappeared at the turn of the 20th century.

124-133 23

This study describes the bridal and funerary rite of exchanging clothes (Bes Kiyim – ‘Five Costumes’) in the context of the traditions and innovations in the Karakalpak culture. On the basis of fi eld data collected in 2014–2019 and earlier in places with a continuous or patchy distribution of the Karakalpak population (Chimbaysky, Karauzyaksky, Kegeyliysky, Nukussky, Khodzheyliysky, and the Takhiatashsky districts of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Republic of Uzbekistan) and of earlier sources, changes in ritualism are analyzed. Bridal rites include exchanges of gifts, such as items of clothing. The comparison of sources shows that the Bes Kiyim rite originated in the mid-20th century in the context of socio-cultural changes. It has remained rather stable up to the present time, being an integral part of Karakalpak bridal ritualism. This indicates its importance in the normative culture of that ethnic group. In one district of Karakalpakstan, the term Bes Kiyim was transferred from the bridal to the funerary rituals. The origin of the rite relates to the transformation of the Iyis custom—the distribution of the deceased person’s clothing among those participating in the ablution of the body. In the late 20th century, specially purchased items of clothing began to be used for that purpose. Apparently, the fi ve items distributed among those participating in the rite symbolize the deceased person’s transition to the ancestors’ world. By the same token, the bride’s fi ve outfi ts allude to her passage to the category of married women and the beginning of her marital life. Therefore, the ritual innovations of the Karakalpaks, caused by socio-cultural and economic changes, mirror the logic and content of traditional family festivals whose complex symbolism relates to status change.

134-142 24

Verbal restrictions common among the Turko-Mongol peoples of Inner Asia and Siberia are analyzed on the basis of folkloric and ethnographic sources. Their principal forms are silence, circumlocution, and whisper. The socio-cultural context of these restrictions is reconstructed. They are seen in various domains of culture, in particular relating to social norms, and are believed to refl ect fear of human life and the well-being of man and society in the communication with nature represented by deities and spirits. This is a natural reaction that has evolved under the harsh environmental and climatic conditions of Inner Asia. The sa me concerns, extending to social communication, have regulated interpersonal interactions. In a nomadic culture, verbal restrictions stem from the importance of the ritual function of language and a specifi c attitude toward spoken language, which, over the centuries, was the principal means of information storage and transfer, cognition and adaptation. This concept of speech affected the emergence of the principal behavioral stereotypes. The rigid norms of behavior account for the importance of the nonverbal context of the nomadic culture— the high informative potential of the entire space inhabited by the nomads, and the rich symbolism of their material culture, traditional outfi t, and dwelling.


143-153 28

We discuss the methodological advantages of using X-ray computed tomography (CT) for diagnosing chronic maxillary sinusitis (CMS) of various etiologies on skeletal samples. A CT examination of 20 crania from the Pucará de Tilcara fortress, Argentina (late 8th to 16th centuries AD), was carried out. Criteria for identifying CMS included osteitic lesions in the form of focal destruction, and thickened and sclerotized walls of maxillary sinuses. To determine the etiology of the disease, a tomographic and macroscopic examination of the dentition and bones of the ostiomeatal complex were performed, the presence or absence of facial injuries was assessed, and the co-occurrence of various pathologies was statistically evaluated. Five cases of CMS were identified. Four of these may be of odontogenic origin; in two cases, a secondary infection of the maxillary sinuses is possible. In one instance, the etiology was not determined. No indications of traumatic infection were found. Statistical analysis revealed a relationship of CMS with apical periodontitis and the ante-mortem loss of upper molars and premolars. An indirect symptom of CMS may be the remodeled bone tissue and porosity of the posterior surface of the maxilla.


ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)