Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia

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Vol 49, No 2 (2021)
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3-22 618

Here, we present initial results of a new course of research being carried out at the Moiltyn-am, Orkhon-1, and Orkhon-7 Paleolithic sites in the Orkhon River Valley, central Mongolia. Our research focuses on the Moiltyn-am site, which preserves a cultural and chronological sequence from the Final Middle to the Late Upper Paleolithic. Results from analyses of rare earth elements, Strontium (Sr) isotopes, and faunal assemblages are correlated with data on paleoenvironmental conditions in the region during MIS-3 and MIS-2. Our conclusions are based in part upon post- depositional changes detectable in archaeological material from cultural layers at the Moiltyn-am site revealed through convergent analyses of stratigraphy, sedimentology, planigraphy, and the comparison of Sr isotopes in sediments and osteological remains. XRF-derived geochemical data from the Moiltyn-am sedimentary sequence yields evidence of past climatic conditions. We correlated these data with human occupational episodes in the Orkhon Valley during the Middle and Upper Paleolithic, and the results are analyzed in the context of extant paleoenvironmental information from northern Mongolia. Our results indicate a relatively humid climate prevailed during MIS-3, followed by a period of aridification, and the redeposition of sediments at Moiltyn-am. Faunal analysis reveals that Bos sp. and equids were the principal prey species for humans in the Final Middle to Initial Upper Paleolithic, supplemented by members of the Caprinae during the Early Upper Paleolithic. A complex mammoth fauna inhabited forest-steppe and steppe landscapes in the Khangai Mountains during MIS-3 and MIS-2.

23-31 371

This article presents a comprehensive study of percussive-abrasive active stone tools from Chagyrskaya Cave, using experimental use-wear and statistical methods, supplemented by 3D-modeling. Experiments combined with use- wear analysis allowed us to determine the functions of these tools by comparing the working surfaces and use-wear traces in the Chagyrskaya samples with those in the reference samples. As a result, we identified 19 retouchers, four hammerstones for processing mineral raw materials, and one hammer for splitting bone, which indicates the dominance of secondary processing over primary knapping in the Chagyrskaya lithic assemblage. Using statistical analysis, we traced the differences in the dimensions of the manuports and lithics under study. These artifacts are a promising and underestimated source of information for identifying working operations associated with stone- and bone-processing; moreover, they can provide new data on the functional attribution of sites and the mobility of early hominins.

32-42 418

The Great Shigir Idol is the largest anthropomorphic wooden sculpture in the world, a unique work of Stone Age art, and a valuable source for reconstructing the material culture and worldview of the ancient population of Northern Eurasia. Although study of it began more than 100 years ago, a number of issues, such as the place of discovery, context, date, methods of exhibition, etc., remain controversial. This article analyses archival documents relevant to the location and time of discovery of the Great Shigir Idol, and on the accompanying finds. The results of a recent comprehensive study conducted by Russian and German archaeologists and scientists in 2014 are outlined. The focus is on the analysis of AMS radiocarbon dates, spanning a period from the Late Pleistocene (~10,500 cal BC) to the Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic (~6000 cal BC). These dates show a considerable range of variation, and they disagree with those derived from the conventional radiocarbon dating in 1997. Paleogeographic and archaeological data from the Trans-Urals do not support the early (9600–9000 cal BC) estimates of the time of the idol’s creation, but rather correspond to later ones, derived from the AMS 14C analysis conducted in 2014. Therefore, it is necessary to continue the study of Mesolithic sites and paleoclimate of the Urals, determine the nature of primary peat formation at the Ural peatlands, and assess their age and that of the microremains of peat in early cracks in the idol, etc.


43-52 322

We describe a hoard found in 2018 on a hilltop near the village of Dvin, Armenia, and comprising seven daggers and six adzes. Similar pickaxes and adzes were found in caches at Dzhrashen, Yerevan, and at Nahal-Mishmar, Israel. A peculiar feature of the Dvin adzes is that their blades are sharply rounded, resembling those of the Bronze Age battle axes. All the Dvin daggers belong to a single type, similar to tangless daggers of the Maikop culture, but more robust. Results of an X-ray diffraction analysis show that the Yerevan, as well as the Dvin, specimens are made of arsenic bronze, whose source is hard to determine. Judging by the typology and the presence of blanks, the Dvin hoard indicates local metalworking, a production of artisans working in the southern part of the Alaverdy mining area. According to GPS, the direct distance between the Dvin and Yerevan hoards is just 13 km. Both locations apparently belonged to one and the same metalworking region in Armenia, and both hoards date to the late 5th to early 4th millennia BC.

53-63 398

This study addresses faunal remains from Vengerovo-2 in the Baraba forest-steppe—a Bronze Age site associated with the Krotovo culture. We describe the origin of the sample, the distribution of bones in the living space, the species and skeletal parts represented, and the age of the animals. The sample consists of small fragments, which are likely butchering and kitchen waste, as well as the leftovers of production and rituals. Bones of domesticated animals are more frequent (62 %) than those of wild ones. Skeletal parts from utility pits (pelvic bones, ribs, and appendicular bones) differ from those found in production areas—mandibles, crania, and entire skeletons. Presumably, pits contained food, and production areas were places where work was accompanied by rituals. The reconstructed animal breeding system indicates its domestic nature, centered on sheep and goats, with a small number of horses and cattle. Hunting large prey (elk and roe deer) was important, and the same is true about fur animals (fox and marten) and waterfowl. The procurement of peltry, hides, and leather were principal occupations. Bone tools were made mostly from elk bones. Results of correlation analysis suggest that in terms of composition, the faunal sample was largely similar to those from contemporaneous Krotovo and Yelunino sites.

64-71 309

The objective of this article is to clarify certain important issues relating to early urban culture. The complexity of the task stems from the absence of early written sources. This is why the study draws on archaeological materials. It especially focuses on the incipient proto-urban sites—the sources of the proto-urban culture. Certain Bronze Age settlements in Azerbaijan meet the criteria of the early urban civilization. On the basis of the facts cited here, hypotheses about the factors underlying the emergence of proto-urban centers (the harbingers of the first class societies) are put forward. The main features of proto-urban settlements are surface area, structure, fortifications, population size, and population density. The evolution of crafts in such centers is reconstructed along with other aspects. It is argued for the first time that nearly all cultural values typical of the advanced ancient Near Eastern centers were borrowed by South Caucasians. Monumental Late Bronze Age burial mounds of Karabakh are viewed in the context of proto-urban evolution. The idea that elite burials were connected with early urban centers is based on the fact that only powerful chiefs of large tribal unions and early class societies could afford monumental burials on such a scale.

72-83 275

This article outlines the findings of a technological study of the Kulai ceramics from Barsov Gorodok III/6 near Barsova Gora, on the right bank of the Ob River, Tyumen Region, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug. We describe the site, its stratigraphic sequence and planigraphy, and the layout of the dwellings. The analysis was performed using binocular microscopy of traces in fresh transverse and longitudinal fractures of potsherds. Results were compared with those relating to the experimental sample. The examination of 50 specimens revealed a conservative tradition typical of the potters’ substrate skills. Its characteristics included the use of homogeneous clay mined near reservoirs in one and the same area, and the technology was based on bottom-to-body or body-to-bottom coiling. The body was constructed by side coiling. Adaptive skills were variable. Four mixed recipes for clay paste are described, making up one-fifth of the total number of recipes: clay + broken stone + chamotte; clay + broken stone + liquid organics; clay + + chamotte + sand; clay + broken stone + sand; and two unmixed recipes: clay + broken stone; and clay + chamotte. The mechanical processing of surface is variable, being based on 16 techniques and their combinations. Techniques used at various stages of pottery manufacture are listed. Simple paste recipes indicate groups of potters representing various traditions. Mixed recipes attest to a blend of traditions. Those using them might have been monocultural or multicultural groups of potters using different techniques and skills.

84-93 376

We describe the morphological and quantitative characteristics, and the elemental composition, of 23 bronze artifacts, seven silver ones, and a gold adornment, spanning the period from late 11th century BC to 15th century AD. These items (adornments and tools) belong to the Uril and Talakan cultures of the Early Iron Age, Mikhailovka, Mohe, and Central Asian cultures of the Early Middle Ages, and the Ducher culture of the Late Middle Ages. Elemental analysis of the bronze items at the SB RAS Institute of Nuclear Physics Siberian Center for Synchrotron and Terahertz Radiation Station of Local and Scanning X-Ray Fluorescence Elemental Analysis showed that over about 2.5 thousand years, tin-lead or lead-tin bronze was used for manufacture. Also, the best convergence of concentrations of chemical elements for Talakan and Mikhailovka artifacts testifies to evolutionary continuity between the Talakan and Mikhailovka cultures. Analysis of the elemental composition of Mohe silver and gold items from the Amur basin was carried out for the first time, revealing the high purity of precious metals used for manufacturing early medieval jewelry.

94-101 260

This study focuses on the southern line of wooden defensive structures (palisade, platform, and two towers) at Fort Umrevinsky (first third of the 18th century), based on the findings of archaeological excavations. Continuous development in this borderline fort are reconstructed over a period of 30 years. Initially, during the era of Peter the Great, Fort Umrevinsky was a regular, subrectangular fortification, enclosed by a palisade, and somewhat similar to a field redoubt. A few decades later, two towers were built on pile foundations at the corners of the palisade enclosure on the fort’s southern face. One of them was subquadratic, the other subrectangular in plan view. As a result, Fort Umrevinsky became a bastion-type fortification. The strengthening of the southern face was motivated by the presence of gates in the palisade wall between the towers, by the proximity of transportation routes (roads and waterways), and by the fact that fortifications were arranged parallel to the borderline. Fortification changes in the 1730s were caused by a number of factors. These included the spread of European fortification principles to Siberia, the political situation in southwestern Siberia, and the beginning of large-scale military engineering works in the region. The southern line of wooden fortifications at Fort Umrevinsky helps to estimate the number of towers there.


102-109 257

On the basis of documentary ethnographic sources from the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the study reconstructs calendar festivals and rites of that period, recorded at one of the mining plants in the Urals—Dobryanka, in the western part of the Perm Governorate. Common festivals celebrated at Uralian mining plants include the greeting of birds (kashke-plishke), “sending off” water (seeing off the Kama), Day of St. Sergius, Pentecost, etc. The industrial calendar was related to the main household and holiday cycles; special “corporate” festivals emerged at private plants, coinciding with name-days of the plants’ owners; archaic forms of traditional ritualism were preserved; calendar festivals were more and more regarded as forms of leisure with less and less religious meaning; multiple calendar traditions coexisted; and new urban forms of festive culture were adopted. The holiday culture of plant settlements was intermediate between rural and urban forms of calendar ritualism. Each peculiarity of industrial calendar rites is described using ethnographic examples from the corresponding holiday cycle. The findings indicate rather unusual features of folk culture in the industrial settlements of the Urals.

110-117 264

This study examines traditional ideas of women and marriage, based on the instructions attributed to one of the rulers of the epoch of the “Religious Kings”—Usun-Debeskertu-Khan, and his ministers. The focus is made on female virtues, the most important of which is adherence to duties in relation to the husband and children. The standards that noble women had to comply with were higher than those concerning other women, but still quite realistic, as attested to by historical records. Negative female traits were said to be caused by untamed emotions, which cause one to forget about commonly accepted norms of behavior. The analysis of the instructions relating to marriage suggests that they were especially influenced by Buddhism, which, using various forms of instruction, including didactic writings, endowed marriage with a new, spiritual content. There were three forms of marriage, tentatively described as “divine”, “earthly”, and “infernal”. The causes of happy and unhappy marital unions were believed to be mainly related to women’s properties mentioned in the instructions. Marital harmony was said to depend mostly on the woman.

118-124 291

This study explores the regional specificity of Buryat rites with regard to the variable manifestation of mythological and historical components, and late innovations. The first attempt is made to reconstruct the mythological component of spoken texts accompanying these rites in the historical and ethno-cultural context. On the basis of field and archival data, contamination and transformation of myth and history in ritual is demonstrated. The principal characters such as deities, shamans, tribal and clan chiefs are described, and the semantics and pragmatics of ancestor and master- spirits in the historical context are discussed. The mythological status of supernatural characters of the rite is assessed. Specific ethnic criteria of turning real personalities into mythological characters in the historic context are listed. Universal features traceable in the process of turning history into myth include a regular mixture of mythological motifs with historical facts, interchange of temporal planes, and especially the reincarnation theme. The conclusion is made that pragmatic rites are the most stable, whereas the general tendency is that rites become less and less connected with mythology and progressively less hyperbolic.

125-133 326

This article describes the Nanai shamanic set, combining two images—a dog and a tiger. The Nanai shamanic sculpture is viewed as a phenomenon reflecting both the subjective and the objective reality constructed by traditional cultural practices. Parallels with Siberian and Pacific cultures reveal the significance of the domestic animal and the wild predator for the people of the Lower Amur. Using folkloric and lexical data, findings of field studies, and ethnographic evidence, folk images of the dog and the tiger are reconstructed. Viewing the problem in the context of collective knowledge about the world reveals the archetypical and modified layers in the image’s construction. The idea of the dog, typical of all the peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East, is that of a draft animal, assistant, sacrifice, and guide to the afterworld. Its image in the Nanai shamanic sculpture was meant to enhance the power of the spirit. It was often combined with the image of the tiger, personifying shaman’s power and the progenitors. The analysis of the terminology relating to the tiger attests to the Southeast Asian roots of its cult. The tiger semantics in the Nanai culture resulted from a blend of Tungus, Paleoasiatic, and Manchu (Chinese) elements. These images were used by shamans not only as assistants in “capturing” spirits and holding them in “detention”, but also as a means of communicating with the world of spirits.


134-143 407

This study reconstructs biological affinities in a cranial sample from a collective burial on Cape Bratyev in Babushkin Bay. The burial, found in a rock niche on the Okhotsk Coast, was excavated by S.P. Efimov in 1976 and tentatively attributed to the Old Koryak culture. The sample consists of 13 adult skulls of differing preservation—five male, five female, and three undeterminable. Genome-wide analysis was carried out at the Center for Geogenetics of the University of Copenhagen. Paleogenetic data support the archaeological hypothesis attributing the burial to the Old Koryak culture. The results of the craniometric analysis suggest that the Old Koryak population was heterogeneous. Cranial data indicate population contacts between ancient Koryaks and the Epi-Jōmon people of Hokkaido. Also, they reveal common episodes in the population history of the group from Cape Bratyev and the Okhotsk culture people. Two of the three Okhotsk samples used for comparative analysis demonstrate very close affinities with individuals studied. According to the previous studies and our current analysis, the Okhotsk people resulted from the admixture of ancient groups related to Chukchi and Eskimo, on the one hand, and Tungus-Manchu groups, on the other. A significant difference between the Old Koryak population and that of Okhotsk culture is that the former includes a component related to Nivkhs.

144-153 244

Sex and age were determined in a skeletal sample from an 18th to early 19th century cemetery at Krivoshchekovo, a rural center since the mid-1790s. Historical records mention the area as the Krivoshchekovo Ob region. The village was founded by immigrants from European Russia. Archival sources concerning the demography of Krivoshchekovo were analyzed, mortality tables were constructed, proportions of various age groups were calculated, and average age of death was estimated for adults. Limitations of the study stem from the fact that the population of Krivoshchekovo was not stationary. The results of the paleodemographic analysis are compared with information from two archival sources: confessional lists and parish registers of St. Nicholas Church, where births, marriages, and deaths were recorded over the period from 1763–1841. Comparative material relates to Russian old residents and the local Tatar population of the Omsk Irtysh region in the 1600s–1800s. Sex and age were estimated in a skeletal sample of 462 individuals—one third of the number of deaths during 1763–1841, when people were buried at the graveyard. Child mortality was lower than among old residents, immigrants, or natives of the Middle Irtysh. The most vulnerable group in the Krivoshchekovo population were young women and children aged 1–4. The findings of the skeletal study agree with those derived from archival sources, and likely mirror the real situation.


ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)