Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

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Vol 48, No 4 (2020)
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3-13 132

This study addresses lithic assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic sites Darvagchay-Zaliv-1 and Darvagchay-Zaliv-4, which are highly relevant to the understanding of this stage in Dagestan. We examine paleoclimatic conditions prevailing during the sedimentation at these sites. A detailed description of lithics is provided. Artifacts were discovered in a minimally disturbed paleosol. They represent the Middle Paleolithic, specifi cally Levallois technique of primary reduction. Judging by the presence of unlined fi re-pits and the fact that fi nds are scattered over a large area, we infer that these sites evidence multiple short-term occupation. The dates of the sites fall within the Riss-Wurm (Eemian, Mikulino) interstadial (MIS 5e)—ca 125-110 ka BP. Parallels with coeval sites in Dagestan and elsewhere in the Caucasus are discussed. Whereas no direct parallels with any Caucasian Middle Paleolithic industries can be found, those of Darvagchay-Zaliv-1 and Darvagchay-Zaliv-4 are consistent with the general evolutionary trajectory of the Caucasian Paleolithic.

14-26 114

Bone retouchers are the most common tools for processing lithic raw material in the Middle Paleolithic of Eurasia. Typically, they are perceived by Paleolithic researchers as informal, unmodified tools made from bone blanks accidentally obtained during the extraction of marrow. In this article, we introduce new data on a large collection of bone retouchers from Chagyrskaya Cave (in the Altai Mountains). Their dimensions demonstrate a high standardization of blanks, indicating the intentional selectivity of Neanderthals. Selection also concerned animal species and the anatomical positions of bones. We found that morphological characteristics such as the number of active areas and the degree of their modification did not affect the size of the retouchers and attest only to the reorientation of tools during lithic processing. In the course of retouching, cross-sections of diagnostic traces in the active areas underwent significant changes: whereas at the early stages they reveal “furrows” with V-shaped cross-sections, multiple blows against the processed lithic resulted in the deformation of the original form, which eventually resembled an upturned trapeze. The comparison of bone retouchers from several multicultural Middle Paleolithic complexes in Eurasia (Chagyrskaya and Denisova caves in the Altai, Kabazi V site in the Crimea, and Barakayevskaya Cave in the Caucasus) evidences similar proportions but considerable variation in size. Proportions, then, are an inherent functional characteristic of bone retouchers, which does not depend on either the cultural context or the raw material base.

27-44 101

This study revises the cultural and chronological attribution of the Shulbinka site, Eastern Kazakhstan, with reference to recent ideas of the Early Upper Paleolithic in northern Central Asia, including new sites dating to that stage (Tolbor-21, Ushbulak, etc.) and a representative series of absolute dates relevant to the site’s chronology. We describe the discovery of the site and principal findings of excavations carried out more than 20 years ago, focusing on the comprehensive analysis of artifacts from Shulbinka, conducted in 2019. We demonstrate that the estimated age and the cultural attribution of the site disagree with earlier interpretations. Earlier claims about the presence of Levallois and Mousterian components in the primary reduction system appear poorly supported. The idea that artifacts from the site resemble those of the Early Upper Paleolithic is subjected to a critical inquiry. As it turns out, the closest parallels to this assemblage are found among the Final Upper Paleolithic industries of southern and central Siberia. Important traits include the combination of large cores for making flakes, blades with edge-faceted and wedge-shaped microcores, and the predominance of end-scrapers and chisel-like tools. Few parallels can be found with industries of different cultural and chronological periods. Based on these analyses, we conclude that the site of Shulbinka dates to the Final Paleolithic. The absence of Final Middle Paleolithic or Early Upper Paleolithic markers makes the site irrelevant to debates around the origin of the Upper Paleolithic in the region.

45-56 138

Here, we outline the findings of comprehensive archaeological studies in Con Moong Cave, northern Vietnam, carried out by the Russian-Vietnamese Expedition, with the participation of Australian specialists, in 2010-2014. The cave is a stratified site, whose habitation deposits span a period beginning ca 42 ka BP. A detailed description of finds is provided. Diachronic changes in artifact types, use of raw materials, and technology are presented. Lithics from layers K-S represent the Early Upper Paleolithic San Vi culture. Finds from layer K include core-shaped debris, flakes, and a discoidal side-scraper (or sumatralith). Tools were made on quartzite pebbles. Finds from layer L, dating to ca 36 ka BP, attest to substantial changes in the choice of lithic raw material: in addition to quartzite, mostly andesite and, less often, limestone, basalt, and certain sedimentary rocks were employed. Primary reduction was not preceded by preparation of nuclei. Flakes are large and medium-sized. Tools include a sumatralith and an end-scraper. The richest material comes from Con Moong layers Q and S, dating to 26-21 ka BP. Preforms consist of pebble cores with unprepared striking platforms. Nuclei include fl at-parallel, radial, and irregular varieties. New tools in the assemblage include choppers, longitudinal and transverse convergent side-scrapers, and discoidal sumatraliths, as well as Hoabinhian axes and a unilateral axe (sumatralith). We conclude that archaeological remains from Con Moong Cave provide evidence of the evolution of the San Vi culture from its emergence to its replacement by the Hoabinhian Technocomplex ~25 ka BP. Lithic industries from layers K and L correlate with one of the earliest stages in the peopling of this region by Homo sapiens.

57-66 82

This article discusses the chronology of Novopetrovka III—a Neolithic settlement in the Western Amur basin, evaluated by the radiocarbon analysis of charred remains on pottery. The Novopetrovka culture as a whole, represented by Novopetrovka I-III and Konstantinovka sites, which had been excavated in the early 1960s, was dated to the 5th (possibly 6th) to early 4th millennia BC on the basis of the typology of the blade industry. The overview of data on prismatic blades manufactured by the pressure technique demonstrated that blade industries appeared in a vast territory of Eurasia in the Final Pleistocene to Early Holocene and, in certain regions, survived until the Chalcolithic. Therefore, they are only a rough guide to the relative chronology of the sites. In the 1990s, after the appearance of radiocarbon dates generated from samples of organic remains in temper and charred remains on pottery from Novopetrovka II, the culture was redated to 15.5-10.8 cal BP. A comparative analysis of new radiocarbon dates based on charred remains on pottery suggests that the age of Novopetrovka III is 9.0-9.5 thousand years. Because no changes were traced in the Novopetrovka sites over a long period of time, the chronological assessment of the Novopetrovka culture in toto and of its separate sites is problematic.

67-74 106

The efficiency of archaeological studies inside caves could be greatly enhanced by geophysical methods because of their potential for examining deposit structure and features. Application of those methods in caves entails a number of problems caused by limited space for measurements and the complexity of the surrounding medium s structure as compared to above-ground measurements. In 2017, Selungur Cave in the Fergana Valley, Kyrgyzstan, was examined using electrical resistivity tomography. Because of the above concerns, in the course of the work the question of the reliability of the results arose. To clarify the issue, a numerical experiment was performed to assess the effect of the three-dimensional cave geometry on the results of a two-dimensional inversion. It was found that variations of cave geometry parameters result in unexpected false anomalies, and considerable errors in bedrock location and resistivity can occur. In the case of downward diverging cave walls, an accurate resistivity section can be obtained by using the inversion based on a two-dimensional model. Therefore, electrical resistivity tomography in caves with similar geometry can yield reliable results concerning the shape of bedrock surface, the thickness of sedimentary layers, and size and position of inclusions such as fallen fragments of roof therein.


75-83 94

Most figurines from the Bronze Age cemetery Tourist-2 in Novosibirsk are anthropomorphic, and follow one and the same iconographic style, termed “Krokhalevka”. Two fragments, however, refer to a zoomorphic image—that of an elk. As they cannot be refitted, a special analysis was carried out. Computer-aided measurements and statistical comparisons suggest that they belong to a single specimen. This is important for further study, the search for parallels, and interpretation. Stylistic comparison with other items of portable art from Tourist-2 is difficult, since these are anthropomorphic. Nonetheless, the analysis suggests that the elk figurine is a perfect match with the homogeneous and stable technological complex revealed by other specimens. In terms of technology and style, the elk fi gurine parallels those of the Late Angara figurative tradition. Because the Tourist-2 burial had not been dated, a preliminary AMS-date of 4601 ± 61 BP (3511 3127 cal BC) was generated. Given this date and the archaeological context of the elkfigurine, it can provide a reference point for the cultural and chronological attribution of other stylistically and technically similar images.

84-94 97

This study focuses on areas evidencing bronze casting at the Odino culture site, Stary Tartas-5, in the Baraba foreststeppe. One such area is within dwelling 1 and has a smelting hearth and pits situated nearby; the other, outside the dwelling, has a smelting kiln. We provide characteristics of these areas and their archaeological context. Each artifact from the foundries is described in detail, parallels are listed, and results of binocular microscopy of the molding compound are outlined. Based on findings of thermogravimetric studies, we assess the functions of technical pottery represented by fragments, and the number of times various items of the casting set could have been used. Previously, crucibles shaped as straight-walled jars have not been found at Odino sites, with the exception of a single intact specimen from burial 286 at the Tartas-1 cemetery. Dwelling 1 at Tartas-5 and the workshop associated with it were apparently parts of a single household. The Odino bronze casting tradition was retained by the Krotovo population, who supplemented it with innovations, such as the use of oval cups with thicker bottoms adapted to their own casting practices. The Odino sites in the Baraba forest-steppe date to the first half of the third millennium BC. It is concluded that the evidence of the bronze casting industry found at Stary Tartas-5 is the earliest in that region, and that its level in the Odino culture was high.

95-105 94

This article presents 44 radiocarbon dates from 18 water wells of different Bronze Age periods at Kamennyi Ambar settlement, in the southern Trans-Urals. At the preliminary stage, statistical outliers were identified, which enhanced the reliability of the conclusions. Potsherds from the filling of the wells, contextual analysis of dating samples, and 14C dates allowed us to carry out the cultural attribution of nearly all wells (31 out of 34). The analyzed wells were subdivided into four chronostratigraphic groups corresponding to various settlement phases. Their duration and chronological limits were estimated. Most wells were found to belong to the Sintashta-Petrovka period (densely spaced linearly arranged blocks of structures inside fortified areas). This period comprised three construction phases, the latest of which correlates with the Petrovka ceramics. The second period, marked by randomly arranged structures, is associated with the Srubnaya-Alakul artifacts, and is represented by only four wells. The simulation results suggest that the site existed for less than one and a half centuries, including a short chronological gap between the two periods. The Sintashta (phases 1 and 2) and Petrovka (phase 3) were two consecutive traditions, which may have overlapped during the late period. In the Srubnaya-Alakul period (phase 4), a transformation of the architectural tradition took place, and the layout and construction of the wells changed too.

106-115 106

The formation of Northeastern Rus in the 10th-11th centuries is usually regarded as a process triggered by intense multicultural interaction and the influx of new settlers from the Dnieper region, Northwestern Rus, and Scandinavia to the Volga-Oka watershed. The dense rural settlement network that existed in 1000-1300, which was recently documented in central Northeastern Rus, and the reconstructed medieval landscapes unambiguously suggest that the prosperity and stability of villages was an important factor in the rise of the region. The level of mobility of the population in Northeastern Rus in the 10th-12th centuries is highly relevant to this issue. This parameter can be assessed using paleodietary data on the isotopic composition of strontium in the dental enamel and bone collagen of individuals buried at medieval cemeteries. The analysis of such samples from a large, rural agglomeration dating to the 10th-early 13th centuries, Shekshovo-9, suggests that this was a culturally diverse and wealthy population, which was part of a trade network. The migration level in this agglomeration was estimated by the results of the mass spectrometric analysis of samples from 24 humans and three animals from the Shekshovo-2 and -9 cemeteries. The reconstructions indicate a high proportion of locals as compared to similar sites in Eastern Europe. No direct relationship was found between the presence of artifacts introduced from other cultures and the isotopic profile of first-generation immigrants. The resulting pattern, indicating a high proportion of native individuals, has no parallels among the 10th-11th century sites in Eastern and Northern Europe represented by comparable data on strontium isotopes.


116-124 85

Eleuths (Olots) played an important part in the ethnic history of the Mongol peoples of Inner Asia, in particular of the Oirats, being the dominant group of the Oirat union at the early stages of its history. In this study, an attempt was made to fill in one of the gaps in the ethnic history of the Turko-Mongol peoples, using the ethnonym “Olot”. The major limitation in studying the Oirat ethnic history is the insufficiency of sources. Much can be gained from using Buryat and Sakha (Yakut)folklore, specifically epics, genealogical legends, and tales. The reason is that the Olots, according to one of the hypotheses, took part in the formation of those peoples. This idea is supported by the reconstruction ofprotoforms of certain Buryat and Yakut ethnonyms and eponyms. Their comparative and historical analysis indicates ethnic ties between the Buryats and the Yakuts, and their participation in the ethnic history of the Mongolian stratum. These facts open up a wider perspective on Turko-Mongol ties. The Olot ethnic history shows them to have been distributed across vast territories of Inner Asia and Siberia, eventually becoming a component of various Turkic and Mongolian groups, while preserving their identity and featuring prominently in ethnogonic legends not only of Dorben-Oirats, but of the Buryats and Yakuts as well. The findings of this study attest to the complexity of ethnic processes among the Mongolian and Turkic speaking nomads of Eurasia. Also, they contribute to the understanding of the ethnic composition of Mongolia, Buryatia, and Yakutia, thus widening the scope of studies on the Altai.

125-134 68

We reconstruct the semantics of fl oral compositions on commemorative towels, embroidered by women, members of the Old Believers Bespopovtsy (priestless worship community rejecting marriage) in Novosibirsk. The original vine motif, associated with the funerary cult, was transformed by replacing vines with more familiar motifs, such as flowers, berries, buds, etc. Certain designs resemble those found in late 19th to early 20th century embroidery manuals and on wrappers of cheap soap manufactured by Rallet, Brocard, etc. In most cases, however, there are no exact parallels. Some fl oral compositions are original: for instance, those showing vases with scrolls reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s monogram, and “vases” turned into letters on Our Savior’s icons. The results of the technological and stylistic analyses suggest that most sacrificial towels were made in the late 1800s and early 1900s, some in the 1940s and 1950s, and some may have been manufactured in places of the Old Believers’ former residence in northern and central Russia. Designs arranged in friezes or central fi gures, such as crosses, cruciate motifs, “vases”, or “vaults”, allude to the Old Believers’ fundamental values. Ritual towels evidence motifs on commercial embroideries creatively transformed by Old Believers according to their beliefs and traditions.


135-145 245

Okunev cemeteries in the Minusinsk Basin were compared with 23 other pre-Andronovo series from southern Siberia, and 45 Early and Middle Bronze Age groups from Eastern Europe (24 Yamnaya and 21 Catacomb), using multivariate statistical analysis. While the Afanasyevo admixture in the Okunev population is possible, the hypothesis that the Okunev culture of the Minusinsk Basin originated from the second migration from the Eastern European steppes to southern Siberia in the Early Bronze Age is not supported. It could, however, be applied to people associated with the Okunev-type (Chaa-Khol) culture in Tuva, although these may as well have descended from the Afanasyevans. As concerns the Minusinsk Basin and other regions of southern Siberia except Tuva, the fi ndings agree with the idea of a marked evolutionary conservatism peculiar to the autochthonous populations of that territory, as evidenced by the fact that each of the three Early Bronze Age population clusters—on the Yenisei, in the Altai, and in Baraba—has its own Neolithic ancestors in the same area (this does not concern the Chaa-Khol, the Yelunino, and apparently the Samus populations). The immediate ancestors of the Okunev people can be identifi ed with the Neolithic population of the Krasnoyarsk-Kansk area, and more distant ones with the Upper Paleolithic southern Siberian common ancestors of the Okunev people and the Native Americans. These ancestors are evidenced by both cranial data (indirectly) and genetic data (directly). The la tter suggest that among these common ancestors were the Malta boy and the Afontova Gora II male. The Okunev population, then, is a relic, offering us a unique opportunity to see what the Upper Paleolithic ancestors of the Native Americans may have looked like in their southern Siberian homeland.

146-154 122

We present the results of a paleogenetic analysis of bone samples representing seven adult individuals from Bertek-33—an Afanasyevo cemetery on the Ukok plateau, in the Altai Republic, Russia. The fi ndings are interpreted with reference to archaeological and anthropological data. Four systems of genetic markers were analyzed: mitochondrial DNA, polymorphic fragment of the amelogenin gene, autosomal STR-loci, and Y-chromosomal STR-loci. Genetic results indicate the dominance of Western Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups (T, J, U5a, K, H) and the homogeneity of the male gene-pool represented by variants of the Y-chromosomal haplogroup R1b. Data on mtDNA, Y-chromosome, and individual autosomal markers attest to the Western Eurasian affi nities of this group. The sample falls within the mtDNA and Y-chromosomal diversity of the Afanasyevo population of southern Siberia. Possible kinship between the individuals buried at Bertek-33 is discussed. Also, we address theoretical issues such as the accuracy of comparisons and the interpretation of genetic data with regard to cultural features.


ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)