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The “Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia during the Late Upper Pleistocene


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In Siberia, a scarcity of sites 22,000 to 18,000 years in age suggests that human populations unable to cope with extreme conditions of the last glacial maximum abandoned the region. After 18,000 years ago, as glaciers retreated and the tree line gradually advanced northward, humans wielding microblade technology recolonized the Asian north, ultimately spreading to the high arctic by 11,000 years ago. This chapter recounts the evidence for the timing of this colonization event and summarizes technological, subsistence, and settlement data from over 20 sites to reconstruct hunter-gatherer adaptations during the Siberian late Upper Paleolithic. Results suggest that late glacial microblade-producing populations were highly mobile hunters who commonly exploited single prey species from short-term camps.
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Thinking Small: Global Perspectives on
Archeological Papers of the
American Anthropological Association Number 12
Robert G. Elston and Steven L. Kuhn, Editors
Contributions by
Stanley H. Ambrose
Anna Belfer-Cohen
Peter Bleed
P. Jeffrey Brantingham
Angela E. Close
Robert G. Elston
Ted Goebel
Nigel Goring-Morris
Peter Hiscock
Steven L. Kuhn
Michael P. Neeley
Georges Pearson
Lawrence Guy Straus
Robin Torrence
David R. Yesner
The “Microblade Adaptation” and
Recolonization of Siberia during the
Late Upper Pleistocene
Ted Goebel
University of Nevada, Reno
In Siberia, a scarcity of sites 22,000 to 18,000 years in age suggests that human populations unable to cope
with extreme conditions of the last glacial maximum abandoned the region. After 18,000 years ago, as gla-
ciers retreated and the tree line gradually advanced northward, humans wielding microblade technology
recolonized the Asian north, ultimately spreading to the high arctic by 11,000 years ago. This chapter re-
counts the evidence for the timing of this colonization event and summarizes technological, subsistence, and
settlement data from over 20 sites to reconstruct hunter-gatherer adaptations during the Siberian late Upper
Paleolithic. Results suggest that late glacial microblade-producing populations were highly mobile hunters
who commonly exploited single prey species from short-term camps.
Siberia, defined loosely, is the vast territory of Asian
Russia that extends from the Ural Mountains in the
west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Altai
and Saian mountains in the south to the Arctic Ocean in
the north (Figure 9.1). Defined in this way, Siberia con-
tains more than 10 million km2 of northern landscapes
drained by five major river systems: Ob’, Yenisei,
Angara, Lena, and Amur. Early in the late glacial,
18,000–14,000 years ago (B.P.), Siberian landscapes were
dominated by “tundra-steppe” vegetation and a faunal
complex characterized by large herbivores like mam-
moth, bison, horse, red deer, and reindeer. Toward the
end of the late glacial, 14,000–11,000 B.P., though, this
tundra-steppe biome was gradually replaced by boreal
forest and forest-steppe with increasing numbers of for-
est-adapted mammals including moose and roe deer
(Guthrie 1990; Powers 1996; Ukraintseva 1993).
The Siberian archaeological period coincident with
climate and environmental change during the late gla-
cial is generally referred to as the late (or “final”) Upper
Paleolithic (Goebel 1999; Kuzmin and Orlova 1998;
Vasil’ev 1993). The late Upper Paleolithic is made up of
a series of regional traditions, including the Diuktai Cul-
ture in Yakutia (Mochanov 1977) and the Afontova-
Kokorevo cultures in the upper Yenisei basin (Abramova
1979b, 1979c). All of these, though, given similarities
in age and technology, can be grouped into a single
technocomplex. Generally, Siberian late Upper Pale-
olithic industries date to 18,000–11,000 B.P. and are based
on the production of microblades (typically less than 2
cm long and 1 cm wide) detached from either specially
prepared wedge-shaped cores made on bifaces or small
“end” (tortsovyi) cores made on relatively thin flakes
(Abramova 1979b, 1979c; Flenniken 1987; Mochanov
1977) (Figure 9.2). Large prismatic blade cores, bipolar
cores, and other simply prepared flake cores are also
common in late Upper Paleolithic assemblages. Second-
ary reduction is characterized chiefly by unifacial and
burin technologies. Bifacial technologies are rare across
most of western Siberia, but more prevalent in Yakutia,
Transbaikal, and Russian Far East (Derev’anko 1998;
Mochanov 1977). Burins occur in a variety of forms, but
most commonly have transverse burin edges. Other lithic
tool forms include large side scrapers (skreblos) often
made on cortical flakes, small end scrapers on bladelets
or round flakes, gravers, and retouched flakes. Osseous
118 Ted Goebel
technologies during the late Upper Paleolithic were di-
rected at the production of bone, antler, and ivory slot-
ted points and knives. Burins were probably used to carve
the slotted points (Guthrie 1990), and microblades were
inset in the slots. Many preserved examples of this com-
posite projectile technology are now known (Abramova
et al. 1991; Drozdov et al. 1990; Petrin 1986).
In this chapter, I consider three fundamental ques-
tions about the Siberian late Upper Paleolithic: (1) When
did microblade technologies emerge in Siberia? (2) What
are the origins of Siberian microblade technologies? (3)
How can we generally characterize human adaptations
during the late glacial in Siberia?
When Did Microblade Technologies
Emerge in Siberia?
There is confusion about the age of the earliest late
Upper Paleolithic microblade industries in Siberia. The
issue lies in whether the earliest clear microblade tech-
nologies date to before or after the last glacial maximum
(LGM). Some have proposed that microblade technolo-
gies emerged as early as 30,000–25,000 B.P. (Derev’an-
ko 1998; Mochanov 1977, 1978; Morlan 1987; West
1996); however, others, including me, argue that the
earliest unequivocally radiocarbon-dated microblade in-
dustries are much later in age, perhaps as late as 18,000–
17,000 B.P. (Abramova 1989; Goebel 1999; Medvedev
1998; Vasil’ev 1993). Debate stems from a series of early
archaeological sites that have problematic geologic con-
texts, inconsistent radiocarbon ages, or single, unconfirmed
radiocarbon ages. These sites include Mogochino-1,
Afontova Gora-2, Krasnyi-Iar-1, Ust’-Kova, Kurla-3,
Sokhatino-4, the “Proto-Diuktai” sites of Yakutia, and
Mogochino-1 is located along the Ob’ River in west-
ern Siberia. Excavations in the 1970s led to the recovery
of a rich inventory of wedge-shaped cores and micro-
Figure 9.1. Locations of late Upper Paleolithic sites in Siberia and Russian Far East and the approximate ages of sites. 1,
Studenoe-2; 2, Ust’-Menza-2; 3, Maininskaia East; 4, Khaergas Cave; 5, Listvenka; 6, Novoselovo-7; 7, Kokorevo-4b; 8,
Oznachennoe-1; 9, Maininskaia Main; 10, Ust’-Kova; 11, Chernoozer’e-2; 12, Volch’ia Griva; 13, Tashtyk-4; 14, Kurtak-3;
15, Kurla-6; 16, Avdeikha; 17, Kokorevo-2; 18, Kokorevo-1; 19, Kurla-3; 20, Diuktai Cave; 21, Golubaia-1; 22, Kokorevo-3;
23, Verkholenskaia Gora; 24, Sokhatino-4; 25, Novoselovo-6; 26, Ust’-Belaia; 27, Makarovo-2; 28, Bol’shoi-Iakor-1; 29,
Oshurkovo; 30, Ust’-Kiakhta-17; 31, Ust’-Menza-1; 32, Ust’-Mil’-2; 33, Ushki-1; 34, Ust’-Ulma-1; 35, Ikhine-2; 36, Ezhantsy;
37, Verkhne Troitskaia; 38, Krasnyi-Iar-1; 39, Afontova Gora-2; 40, Mogochino-1; 41, Suvorovo-4; 42, Gorbatka-3.
“Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia 119
Figure 9.2. Lithic artifacts typical of late Upper Paleolithic sites in Siberia. a, c, End microblade cores; b, f, wedge-shaped
microblade cores; d, side scraper; e, g, end scrapers; h, burin; i, j, bifaces (Sosnovyi Bor: a, b, g, h, i, j; Kokorevo-3: c, e;
Novoselovo-6: d, f).
120 Ted Goebel
blades, associated with bones of woolly mammoth, horse,
reindeer, woolly rhinoceros, bison, and fox (Petrin 1986).
A sample of bone, subjected to conventional radiocar-
bon dating, yielded an age of 20,150 ± 240 B.P. (SOAN-
1513), but the excavator of the site, V. Petrin, concludes
that this determination is “somewhat too ancient” and
that the associated microblade industry more likely dates
around 17,000–16,000 B.P. (Petrin 1986:102, 117). The
microblade-bearing horizon lies unconformably on a bed
of late Middle Pleistocene sand, is heavily soliflucted
and cryoturbated, and is covered by a redeposited
“sapropel” (peat-like) deposit that has been convention-
ally radiocarbon dated to 27,300 ± 400 (GIN-1701) and
34,200 ± 1,300 B.P. (GIN-1702) (Petrin 1986:80). I agree
with Petrin that we should not be too quick to accept the
single bone determination on the late Upper Paleolithic
cultural component, not only because of the vagaries of
conventionally dating bone, but also because of the site’s
problematic geologic context. The presence of woolly
rhinoceros remains (which became extinct in Siberia
early in the late glacial), however, does suggest that the
Mogochino-1 cultural component likely dates to early in
the late glacial.
In the Yenisei basin, in south-central Siberia, the
earliest radiocarbon-dated wedge-shaped core industry
is at Afontova Gora-2, located on the outskirts of
Krasnoiarsk along the Yenisei River. V. Gromov discov-
ered Afontova Gora-2 in 1912; he, N. Auerbakh, and G.
Sosnovskii conducted large-scale excavations there in
1923–1925, exposing two Upper Paleolithic cultural
components with microblades and extinct fauna
(Abramova et al. 1991:97). During a geologists’ field
trip in 1962, a sample of charcoal was collected from an
exposed profile at the site and conventionally radiocar-
bon dated to 20,900 ± 300 B.P. (GIN-117), leading Tseitlin
(1979) to conclude that the lower cultural component
dates to just before the LGM. Abramova et al. (1991;
see also Abramova 1979b), however, argue that the ra-
diocarbon-dated sample cannot be reliably associated
with either of the cultural components and, on the basis
of comparisons with other sites in the Yenisei basin, that
the lower microblade component probably was depos-
ited after the LGM, about 16,000 B.P.
The Angara region has several microblade industries
that have been proposed to predate 18,000 B.P. The most
compelling of these is Krasnyi-Iar-1, located along the
southern Angara River. This multicomponent site occurs
in well-stratified alluvial deposits and has two sets of
cultural occupations with microblades. The upper set
(cultural components I–IV) is associated with a paleosol
stratigraphically assigned to the Kokorevo interstade,
independently dated to about 14,000–13,000 B.P. The
lower set (cultural components V–VII) is associated with
periglacial alluvium assigned to the LGM, 19,000–18,000
B.P. (Tseitlin 1979). This early age assignment is sup-
ported by the occurrence of woolly rhinoceros remains,
as well as a single radiocarbon determination of 19,000
± 100 B.P. (GIN-5530) from component VI (Medvedev
1998). Medvedev (1998:131) calls the artifact assem-
blage from layer VI “unique” for central Siberia because
it contains large quartzite cores and scrapers, as well as
ostrich eggshell ornaments, and because wedge-shaped
microblade core technology occurs here at such an early
date, much earlier than anywhere else in the Angara re-
gion. He cautiously concludes that the early assemblages
from Krasnyi-Iar-1 are “poor” and “morphologically in-
definite” (Medvedev 1998:137). Other purported early
microblade sites in the Angara region include Ust’-Kova
(upper complex) and Kurla-3 (component 2). Kuzmin and
Orlova (1998) report a new radiocarbon age on charcoal
of 19,540 ± 90 B.P. (SOAN-1900) for the microblade in-
dustry at Ust’-Kova, but this obviously does not con-
form with a prior determination on charcoal of 14,220 ±
100 B.P. (LE-1372) for the same assemblage (Vasil’evskii
et al. 1988). The Kurla-3 (layer 2) microblade industry
has a single radiocarbon age (from a small sample of
charcoal) of 24,060 ± 5,700 B.P. (SOAN-1397), but the
large standard error makes this determination unreli-
able (Kuzmin and Orlova 1998). The microblades at both
Ust’-Kova and Kurla-3 are probably much younger than
implied by their early radiocarbon ages, but the early
components at Krasnyi-Iar-1 may very well date to
19,000 B.P., suggesting an appearance of microblade tech-
nology in the southern Angara region at the height of the
last glacial. More radiocarbon determinations, however,
are necessary to confirm this.
Sokhatino-4, located near the city of Chita in the
eastern Transbaikal region, was excavated in the 1970s
by I. Kirillov (Okladnikov and Kirillov 1980). His exca-
vations revealed a rich inventory of wedge-shaped cores,
microblades, and bifaces, in association with a diverse
faunal assemblage including woolly mammoth, roe deer,
red deer, and moose (Okladnikov and Kirillov 1980:51).
Two conventional radiocarbon determinations have been
reported for the site; one is a determination of 11,900 ±
130 B.P. (SOAN-841) on bone and the other is a determi-
nation of 26,110 ± 200 B.P. (SOAN-1138) on charcoal.
Although Okladnikov and Kirillov (1980:51) prefer the
older of the two determinations, I agree with Abramova
(1989:220) that the rich bifacial character of the indus-
try and the presence of moose and roe deer, commonly
associated with forest habitats, suggest that the industry
“Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia 121
more likely dates to the end of the late glacial, after
12,000 B.P.
Mochanov (1977, 1978) has suggested that micro-
blade technology emerged in eastern Yakutia long be-
fore the LGM, based on evidence from three key sites:
Ikhine-2, Ust’-Mil’-2, and Ezhantsy. Evidence from these
“Proto-Diuktai” sites, however, has seen repeated criti-
cism in both the Russian and American archaeological
literature (Abramova 1979a, 1989; Hopkins et al. 1982;
Kuzmin and Orlova 1998; Kuzmin and Tankersley 1996;
Yi and Clark 1985). Briefly, these sites appear to be in
secondary contexts, so that radiocarbon ages associ-
ated with lithic industries cannot be reliably con-
nected, and in the case of Ust’-Mil’-2 and Ikhine-2, the
excavated assemblages are exceedingly small and do
not contain unequivocal artifacts one would consider
representative of a microblade industry. Verkhne
Troitskaia, which yielded a small yet unequivocal
microblade assemblage with radiocarbon determinations
of about 18,000 B.P. (Mochanov 1977), may indicate an
early late glacial appearance of microblade technology
in Yakutia, yet even this site likely occurs in a second-
ary context so that associated radiocarbon ages should
be treated with caution.
The most ancient microblade industry in the Rus-
sian Far East comes from Ust’-Ulma-1, located along the
Selemdzha River, a major northern tributary of the Amur
River. This site has yielded a conventional radiocarbon
age of 19,360 ± 65 B.P. (SOAN-2619) on charcoal
(Derev’anko 1998). This is the only determination from
the site, however, and microblades come from a fairly
shallow (<1 m) context. More information on the dated
sample and its association with cultural remains is
needed, as are additional radiocarbon determinations, in
order to fully evaluate the site’s age.
Thus, the evidence for wedge-shaped core and
microblade technologies predating the LGM is meager.
Age assignments for these putative early sites are not
well founded because of inconsistent radiocarbon deter-
minations, problematic geologic contexts, or single ra-
diocarbon ages that obviously need to be replicated. As
a result, I argue that we need to consider a more con-
servative chronology that is based on
sites with multiple and consistent ra-
diocarbon determinations that come
from cultural features and are un-
equivocally associated with clear
wedge-shaped core and microblade
industries. When constructed under
these constraints, the chronology of
microblade technology in Siberia be-
comes much shorter. No wedge-shaped
core and microblade industries can be
shown convincingly to date to before
18,000 B.P. (Figure 9.3).
According to the short chronology
proposed here, the earliest unequivo-
cally dated wedge-shaped core and
microblade industries in Siberia occur
in the southern Baikal region. The evi-
dence comes from two sites located
along the Chikoi River, a major tribu-
tary of the Selenga River (which flows
into Lake Baikal): Ust’-Menza-2 and
Studenoe-2. Ust’-Menza-2 was exca-
vated by M. Konstantinov during the late
1980s to early 1990s and has yielded a
series of late Upper Paleolithic cultural
components in a well-stratified set of
overbank flood deposits. The upper
cultural components have radiocarbon
determinations ranging from 16,900 to
Figure 9.3. Frequency of late Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites by 1,000-
year intervals. Note lack of sites between 19,000 and 18,000 B.P., low frequencies
of sites between 18,000 and 16,000 B.P., and high frequencies between 16,000
and 11,000 B.P.
122 Ted Goebel
14,800 B.P., while the two lowermost components have
been radiocarbon dated to 17,600 ± 250 and 16,980 ±
150 B.P., respectively (Konstantinov 1994). These are
conventional determinations run on wood charcoal from
hearths, and they are clearly associated with wedge-
shaped cores and microblades. More recently, Konstan-
tinov’s team has been excavating at Studenoe-2, another
site with a series of stratigraphically distinct cultural
components spanning the late glacial. Michael Waters,
Ian Buvit, and I participated in these excavations in 1996
and have since been involved in geoarchaeological and
dating studies of the site. Accelerator radiocarbon dat-
ing has led to the following determinations for the early
microblade industries at the site: 17,165 ± 115 B.P. (AA-
23657) for cultural component 5 and 17,775 ± 115 (AA-
23655) and 17,885 ± 120 B.P. (AA-23653) for cultural
component 4/5. These determinations are on wood char-
coal from hearths in dwelling features (Buvit 2000;
Goebel et al. 2000; Konstantinov 1994). Thus, in the
southern Baikal region bordering central Mongolia,
wedge-shaped core and microblade technology has been
clearly documented to have emerged by 17,500 B.P., im-
mediately following the LGM.
As one moves away from the southern Baikal area,
the earliest unequivocal microblade technologies appear
to get progressively younger (Figure 9.1). The earliest
clearly dated microblade site in the Yenisei basin is
Maininskaia east locus (layer 5), radiocarbon dated to
16,500 B.P. (Drozdov et al. 1990). Other early sites (i.e.,
Maininskaia main locus, Novoselovo-7, Kokorevo-4b,
Kurtak-3, Oznachennoe-1) fall between 15,500 and
15,000 B.P. (Abramova et al. 1991; Drozdov et al. 1990).
In the Ob’ basin, farther to the west, the earliest micro-
blades are even younger, dating to after 14,500 B.P. at
Chernoozer’e-2 (although this site may be closer to
12,000 B.P. in age) (Petrin 1986). Similarly, to the east
in the Amur/Primor’e region of the Russian Far East,
the earliest sites with clear microblade industries may
include Suvorovo-4 (15,000 B.P.) and Gorbatka-3 (less
than 13,500 B.P.) (Kuzmin et al. 1994). The same pattern
holds true in the north in Yakutia and Beringia. In
Yakutia, if Verkhne Troitskaia and the “Proto-Diuktai”
sites are discounted, then the earliest reliably dated
microblade industries are as young as 16,000 B.P. or
younger. These sites include Khaergas Cave (16,000 B.P.)
(Kostiukevich and Dneprovskaia 1990:182), Diuktai
Cave (14,000–13,000 B.P.) (Mochanov 1977), and
Avdeikha (13,000 B.P.) (Mochanov 1978:64) (Figure 9.1).
In Beringia, finally, microblades appear at the end of the
late glacial, about 10,700 B.P., in Kamchatka (at Ushki)
and central Alaska (at Dry Creek) (Dikov 1977; Goebel
and Slobodin 1999; Hamilton and Goebel 1999; Powers
and Hoffecker 1989).
The short chronology presented here suggests that
in northern Asia, microblades appeared first in the south-
ern Baikal region, at or just following the LGM, between
18,000 and 17,000 B.P. Shortly after this time, between
16,000 and 14,000 B.P., microblades appeared in the
Yenisei region to the west, the Amur region to the east,
and Yakutia to the north. This technology finally ap-
peared in Beringia around 11,000–10,000 B.P., spread-
ing across Alaska and northwest Canada in the early
Holocene (Hoffecker et al. 1993). This spread of micro-
blade technology between 18,000 and 11,000 B.P. may
represent the recolonization of Siberia by modern hu-
mans following the LGM.
What Are the Origins of Siberian
Microblade Technologies?
There are basically two possible answers to the ques-
tion of Siberian microblade origins. Siberian microblade
technologies have their source either in some local Sibe-
rian antecedent or in some neighboring region of East or
Central Asia (i.e., Mongolia, China, or the East Asian
maritime region). The most likely local antecedent is the
Siberian middle Upper Paleolithic complex, represented
at sites like Mal’ta, Igeteiskii Log, Ui-1, and Kashatanka,
all dating to between about 25,000 and 20,000 B.P. These
sites show a tendency toward microlithization that is
characterized by narrow bladelets detached from small
prismatic cores (Goebel 1999; Vasil’ev 1993). Some of
the bladelets found in these sites fit the proportions typi-
cal of later microblades; however, in the middle Upper
Paleolithic the small cores and blades appear to be the
result of intensive core reduction related to raw material
economization, not the result of a distinct technological
system as in the late Upper Paleolithic. Although it is
possible that late Upper Paleolithic wedge-shaped core
and microblade technologies ultimately evolved from
such a prismatic blade reduction system, other evidence
suggests that instead they developed outside Siberia and
spread into the region sometime after the LGM.
When we consider the frequency of radiocarbon-
dated Upper Paleolithic sites in Siberia through time,
from about 35,000 to 11,000 B.P., it becomes obvious
that there is a hiatus coincident with the LGM, 19,000–
18,000 B.P. (Figure 9.3) (Goebel 1999). This hiatus is
critical because it is around this time that full-fledged
microblade technologies emerged. Currently there are
only three sites, Tomsk, Shlenka, and Tarachikha, with
radiocarbon ages within this 19,000–18,000 B.P. inter-
“Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia 123
val, and none of these are firm. Tomsk was excavated
over a century ago, and the single conventional determi-
nation of 18,000 ± 1,000 B.P. was obtained on an archived
charcoal sample collected in 1896 (Tseitlin 1979). The
association of this charcoal to the mammoth that pre-
sumably was killed at Tomsk cannot be clearly demon-
strated. Shlenka has a single cultural component with four
radiocarbon ages ranging from 22,800 to 17,600 B.P.; only
one of these falls within the 19,000 to 18,000 B.P. inter-
val (Vasil’ev 1992). The real age of the site is probably
close to 20,000 B.P. Tarachikha has two determinations—
19,800 ± 180 and 18,900 ± 320 B.P.—that together sug-
gest an age a few centuries earlier than 19,000 B.P.
(Kuzmin and Orlova 1998). Thus, it seems that Siberia
became devoid of human populations during the LGM,
so that late Upper Paleolithic microblade industries post-
dating the LGM represent the recolonization of Siberia
by an exotic population of humans. The precise origin
of this population is unclear, but the proximal source
could have been central Mongolia, immediately south of
Lake Baikal, where it seems that the earliest microblades
in Siberia appeared (as discussed in the previous section
of this chapter). We know next to nothing about Pale-
olithic central Mongolia, however, so at this time this
scenario is not well supported.
How Can We Characterize the Siberian
“Microblade Adaptation”?
About 20 late Upper Paleolithic sites in Siberia have
been extensively excavated, reported, and radiocarbon
dated. Examinations of spatial organization, technolo-
gies and tool forms, and faunal remains of these sites
suggest that Siberian late Upper Paleolithic populations
were highly mobile hunter-gatherers who focused largely
on large mammal resources.
Late Upper Paleolithic sites are typically small, and
preserved features and artifact distributions suggest short-
term occupations. Most sites have multiple components
(e.g., Listvenka, Maininskaia) or more than one locus
(e.g., Kokorevo, Ust’-Menza), however, suggesting re-
peated returns to key locations. In the upper Yenisei ba-
sin, most sites dating to the late glacial have only small
hearths with limited accumulations of cultural debris, and
storage pits are for the most part absent (Abramova et al.
1991; Vasil’ev 1996). Dwelling features are rare, too,
but do occur at Ui-2 and Listvenka as partial rings of
stones with central hearths (Abramova et al. 1991;
Drozdov et al. 1990; Vasil’ev 1996). These are inter-
preted to be remains of light surface tents (Vasil’ev 1996)
but could also be windbreaks. In the Transbaikal, sev-
eral late Upper Paleolithic sites (i.e., Ust’-Menza-2,
Studenoe-2) have yielded well-preserved dwelling fea-
tures (Goebel et al. 2000; Konstantinov 1994). These are
circular to oval stone rings typically 4 to 5 m in diameter
with central stone-lined hearths, thin archaeological
floors (less than 1 cm thick), and light accumulations of
cultural debris (Konstantinov 1994; Kuznetsov 1996).
Again clear storage pits are absent. Kuznetsov (1996)
suggests these features are remains of surface huts that
were occupied for short episodes, perhaps single sea-
sons. Seasonality studies, however, have not yet been
conducted on faunal assemblages from these sites, so
we cannot readily determine the time of year that people
inhabited these residential camps or the duration of the
occupations. The redundant occurrence of small camp-
sites, near absence of storage technology, and light char-
acter of preserved dwelling features, however, suggest
that late Upper Paleolithic Siberians were highly mo-
bile—much more mobile than earlier populations (i.e.,
the Mal’ta complex), who often built large semised-
entary dwellings, dug deep storage pits, and occupied
large residential camps for relatively lengthy periods
(Goebel 1999).
Studies of lithic artifacts can lend important infor-
mation about lithic resource procurement and settlement
mobility (Bamforth 1986; Kuhn 1995; Odell 1996; Parry
and Kelly 1987; Shott 1986), but late Upper Paleolithic
assemblages in Siberia have not been subjected to such
analyses. We know very little about raw material pro-
curement, transport of tools, and functions of various
artifact forms, and in most cases we do not even know
ratios of retouched tools to unretouched flakes and blades
(because debitage has not always been systematically
collected in Siberian excavations). Frequencies of tool
types, however, have been reported for most sites, so we
can calculate the relative amount of formal and informal
tools, a variable that may indicate relative degree of
mobility or occupation duration (Andrefsky 1998; Parry
and Kelly 1987; Torrence 1983). Formal tools are those
lithic artifacts that display intentional, invasive retouch
suggesting that they were produced in advance of use
(e.g., bifacial points and knives, scrapers, gravers), while
informal tools are expedient, marginally retouched tools
that were produced as needs arose (e.g., retouched flakes
and blades). High frequencies of formal tools are thought
to represent, at least in some cases, shorter occupations
and higher degrees of residential mobility. I have calcu-
lated frequencies of formal and informal tools from a
series of Siberian late Upper Paleolithic sites (Table 9.1)
and compared them with those of several earlier Upper
Paleolithic sites. It is obvious that late Upper Paleolithic
124 Ted Goebel
sites have higher frequencies of formal tools than early
Upper Paleolithic sites; this very well could be a reflec-
tion of higher mobility in the late Upper Paleolithic.
Some researchers also consider that mobile hunter-
gatherers typically produced high frequencies of formal
tools that served multiple functions. In North American
Paleoindian assemblages, bifaces fit this category; they
are thought to represent both cores and knives (Kelly
1988). Perhaps wedge-shaped microblade cores played
a similar role in Siberian late Upper Paleolithic toolkits.
Wedge-shaped cores were often manufactured on split
or fragmented bifaces, and bifacial margins often show
traces of retouching and wear probably the result of their
use as knives (Dikov and Kononenko 1990). Fastening
of the core in a vise while detaching microblades
(Flenniken 1987), however, could cause wear on the
bottoms of many wedge-shaped cores, but there is no
evidence that late Upper Paleolithic flintknappers used
vises in this way. Similarly, many “end” (or tortsovyi)
cores (i.e., microblade cores made on flakes) have
counter-fronts with clear unifacial scraper retouch (Fig-
ure 9.2, c). It would seem, therefore, that microblade
cores often served as multipurpose tools, perhaps a fur-
ther sign of late Upper Paleolithic mobility.
Another interesting feature of the Siberian late Up-
per Paleolithic is an overall lack of portable art. There
are several cases of slotted points and awls with incised
designs (Abramova et al. 1991; Okladnikov and Kirillov
1980), a few ivory discs with scratches or incisions that
are probably pendant preforms (Medvedev 1998), and
a clay human statuette from the Maininskaia site
(Vasil’ev 1996). These artworks of the late Upper Pale-
olithic, however, pale in comparison with those from sites
of the preceding Mal’ta culture (Goebel 1999; Medvedev
1998). Perhaps this also suggests higher mobility in the
late Upper Paleolithic, or at least shorter stays at resi-
dential sites.
Most of what we know about late Upper Paleolithic
subsistence comes from the Yenisei region of south-
central Siberia and is based primarily on the work of
N.M. Ermolova (1978). In the Minusinsk depression,
along the Yenisei River between the cities of Krasnoiarsk
and Abakan, reindeer dominate the faunal assemblages
from late Upper Paleolithic sites (Figure 9.4). At Ko-
korevo-2, in layers 2 and 3, reindeer bones make up about
63 percent of the faunal assemblages and about 30 per-
cent of the individuals represented (Ermolova 1978), and
at Novoselovo-6 and Novoselovo-7, reindeer bones make
up about 98 percent of the faunal assemblages. Farther
south along the upper Yenisei River, in the Saian Moun-
tains, reindeer are not as common. At Maininskaia, for
example, faunal assemblages from each cultural compo-
Table 9.1. Frequency of formal and informal tools in Siberian late Upper Paleolithic sites
*Excluding cobble tools and wedges, which may be cores.
Site Frequency of Informal Tools Frequency of Formal Tools* Total Tools Reference
Late Upper Paleolithic
Sosnovyi Bor, comp. 5 21 30.9 47 69.1 68 This study
Tashtyk-1, comp. 3 26 18.7 113 81.3 139 Abramova 1979b
Tashtyk-1, comp. 2 10 12.8 68 87.2 78 Abramova 1979b
Kokorevo-2 76 32.9 155 67.1 231 Abramova 1979b
Maininskaia, comp. 3 44 32.6 91 67.4 135 Vasil'ev 1996
Maininskaia, comp. 4 21 18.8 91 81.3 112 Vasil'ev 1996
Total 198 26.0 565 74.0 763
Early Upper Paleolithic
Sosnovyi Bor, comp. 6 20 57.1 15 42.9 35 Goebel 1993
Kara-Bom 113 48.9 118 51.1 231 Goebel 1993
Arembovskii 17 37.0 29 63.0 46 Goebel 1993
Makarovo-4 191 71.8 75 28.2 266 Goebel 1993
Varvarina Gora 52 37.4 87 62.6 139 Goebel 1993
Tolbaga 259 42.3 354 57.7 613 Goebel 1993
Total 652 49.0 678 51.0 1330
“Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia 125
Figure 9.4. Relative frequencies of faunal remains represented in Siberian late Upper Paleolithic sites (see Figure 9.1 for locations and approximate ages of
these sites). Data represent numbers of individual specimens present (NISP); data representing minimum number of individuals (MNI) are not available for all
of these sites, so are not presented here. References are provided in the text.
126 Ted Goebel
nent are dominated by a different large-mammal spe-
cies—Siberian mountain goat, red deer, or bison. In the
Transbaikal, preliminary reports on faunal assemblages
from the Ust’-Menza and Studenoe sites indicate that late
Upper Paleolithic populations concentrated on the hunt-
ing of red deer (Kuznetsov 1996). Thus, hunting of
cervids seems to have been an important facet of late
Upper Paleolithic subsistence, although bison and horse
also occur at most sites.
Woolly mammoth remains occur much less fre-
quently in late Upper Paleolithic sites. In fact, I know of
only six radiocarbon-dated late Upper Paleolithic sites
in southern Siberia that have yielded mammoth remains:
Volch’ia Griva, Shikaevka-2, Listvenka, Kokorevo-2,
Afontova Gora-2, and Sosnovyi Bor. At Volch’ia Griva,
located in the Barabin steppe of southwest Siberia, more
than 1,000 mammoth bones were excavated, but only two
flakes and four small bladelets were associated with them
(Petrin 1986). The Listvenka remains have yet to be de-
scribed in detail, but preliminary reports indicate that
only ivory occurs in most layers (Akimova et al. 1992);
the same is true at Sosnovyi Bor (Lezhnenko et al. 1982).
Perhaps the ivory present in these sites resulted from
scavenging of mammoth tusk. Only Kokorevo-2 and
Shikaevka-2 have an abundance of mammoth bones in
clear archaeological contexts. At Kokorevo-2, at least
seven individual mammoths are represented in the fau-
nal assemblage, making up about 30 percent of the bones
recovered from the site (Figure 9.4) (Ermolova 1978),
and at Shikaevka-2, two mammoths appear to have been
killed and partially butchered (Petrin 1986). The latter
site may be the only documented case of a mammoth kill
site for the late Upper Paleolithic of Siberia.
Another interesting pattern in the late Upper Pale-
olithic of Siberia is that hare (Lepus sp.) appears to have
been an economically important fauna. Nearly all of the
Yenisei sites have specimens of hare represented, and at
Kokorevo-4b there are more bones and individuals at-
tributable to hare than to most species of large mammals
present (only reindeer occurs in higher numbers) (Fig-
ure 9.4). Other smaller-sized mammals that recur at many
sites include red fox, wolf (or dog), wolverine, and polar
fox, and remains of birds have been found at Kokorevo-
1, Kokorevo-2, Kokorevo-4b, and Maininskaia
(Abramova et al. 1991; Ermolova 1978; Vasil’ev 1996).
Fish are absent from these sites and do not appear until
the very end of the Upper Paleolithic, in sites like
Oshurkovo, Ust’-Belaia, and Ust’-Kiakhta-17 after about
12,000 B.P. (Tashak 1996).
Overall, the internal organization of sites, artifact
inventories, technologies, and faunal remains of the late
Upper Paleolithic suggest a high-mobility adaptation.
Microblade cores may have frequently served as multi-
purpose tools, and the preponderance of formal tools in
late Upper Paleolithic assemblages may represent a high
degree of tool curation by mobile hunter-gatherers.
Nearly all sites are dominated by single mammal spe-
cies, and many saw repeated short-term occupations. The
absence of storage pits and dugout dwellings, as well as
the near absence of art objects, also suggests that these
were not long-term base camps. Instead they represent
short-term camps of mobile foraging groups who repeat-
edly used the same places to procure seasonal resources,
such as migrating reindeer.
Can we go further and characterize late Upper Pale-
olithic hunter-gatherer mobility as either logistical or
residential (sensu Binford 1980)? At this point the an-
swer is no. More detailed intersite comparisons are
necessary to clearly define variability in assemblages,
features, activities, and durations of occupations. With-
out these data, we cannot establish site types and cannot
characterize specifics of late Upper Paleolithic settlement
organization. Further, Siberian environments during the
late glacial were highly variable across space and con-
stantly changing through time, making it highly prob-
able that hunter-gatherer land use varied as well.
In Europe, another area where microlithic technolo-
gies were widespread during the late glacial, archaeolo-
gists repeatedly have demonstrated the complex nature
of late Upper Paleolithic subsistence, settlement, and
social organization. In southwest Germany, on the one
hand, Magdalenian hunter-gatherers were logistically
mobile, making short seasonal moves between spring-
summer and autumn-winter camps, perhaps in response
to relatively short reindeer migrations (Eriksen 1996;
Weniger 1987). In southwest France, on the other hand,
Magdalenian reindeer hunters appear to have been highly
mobile and “territorially extensive” (Straus 1996:95), so
much so that Bahn (1977) has argued that Magdalenian
settlement moves spanned hundreds of kilometers be-
tween the Périgord and Pyrenees regions. Likewise, the
extensive late Upper Paleolithic sites of Pincevent and
Verberie in the Paris basin are thought to represent mi-
gration camps of far-ranging Magdalenian hunters
(Audouze 1987). Obviously, if such variation existed in
the late Upper Paleolithic record of western and central
Europe, the same could be true for Siberia. The data pre-
sented here support the notion that late Upper Paleolithic
Siberians were more mobile than their pre-LGM coun-
terparts, but more detailed characterizations of this high-
mobility adaptation must await further analyses of lithic
technologies and site patterning.
“Microblade Adaptation” and Recolonization of Siberia 127
Through the above review of the Siberian late Up-
per Paleolithic, I offer the following conclusions, drawn
from patterns noted in the available data.
1. Microblade technology is a late glacial phenom-
enon in Siberia, with the earliest well-dated wedge-
shaped core and microblade industries occurring in the
southern Baikal region about 17,500 B.P. Sites with
microblades that are thought to predate 18,000 B.P. are
in poor contexts, have inconsistent radiocarbon deter-
minations, or only have single radiocarbon determina-
tions that need to be replicated.
2. The appearance of microblade technologies across
Siberia following the LGM represents human recolo-
nization of northern Asia during the late glacial. The
hiatus in the archaeological record between 19,000 and
18,000 B.P. suggests that humans left Siberia during the
LGM and that microblade technology originated in tem-
perate Asia, perhaps in central or eastern Mongolia.
3. The redundant occurrence of short-term residen-
tial camps and the absence of long-term villages or base
camps suggest that these late glacial colonizers of Si-
beria existed as small groups of highly mobile hunter-
gatherers who frequently moved their camps to where
important animal resources were available. Debris ac-
cumulations are small, dwellings are ephemeral, and key
locations were repeatedly utilized.
4. Lithic industries during the late Upper Paleolithic
were organized to facilitate mobility. Late Upper Pale-
olithic stone artifact assemblages are characterized by
high frequencies of formal tools, and microblade cores
appear to have functioned as multipurpose tools.
5. Faunal data suggest that late Upper Paleolithic
folk concentrated subsistence pursuits on a small set of
large- or medium-bodied prey. Although sites typically
have more than one species represented, faunal assem-
blages are typically dominated by single prey species,
for example, reindeer, red deer, or bison, suggesting a
degree of hunting specialization. After 12,000 B.P., fish-
ing appears, indicating a broadening of the resource base
as the late glacial came to a close.
These conclusions should be considered as working
hypotheses that, it is hoped, will incite discussion and
continued research. Obviously there is a need for more
detailed research into the Siberian late Upper Paleolithic.
Early microblade sites thought to date to before or dur-
ing the LGM need to be reexamined and redated. Search
for late Upper Paleolithic sites in central and eastern
Mongolia needs to be initiated, in order to examine the
potential for finding sites there that might span the LGM
and reveal important evidence concerning the origins of
microblade technology. Finally, new and detailed analy-
ses of lithic and faunal assemblages need to be accom-
plished, in order to address questions concerning human
ecology and adaptation during the late glacial. Were
Siberia’s late Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers logisti-
cally or residentially mobile? An answer to this question
cannot be found without detailed intersite assemblage
comparisons. If we are ever to fully understand the evo-
lution of human adaptations and the process of the
recolonization of Siberia during the late glacial, we
need to know more about lithic raw material procure-
ment and organization of technology, as well as sea-
sonal subsistence and settlement behavior for the late
Upper Paleolithic. We need to look at all aspects of the
archaeological record, no matter how minute, and focus
on individual archaeological sites and their specific eco-
logical contexts, in order to fully understand the
“microblade adaptation.” In other words, we need to be
thinking small.
Special thanks to my colleagues in Russia who over
the years have invited me to participate in archaeologi-
cal excavations and to study lithic artifact assemblages.
In this case, they include E. Akimova, M. Aksenov, A.
Derevianko, N. Dikov, N. Drozdov, M. Konstantinov,
S. Markin, G. Medvedev, and R. Vasil’evskii. My re-
search in the Transbaikal has been supported by the Na-
tional Science Foundation and Wenner-Gren Foundation
for Anthropological Research. Thanks also to R. Elston
and S. Kuhn for inviting me to participate in the mi-
crolith symposium at the 1999 meetings of the Soci-
ety for American Archaeology and to R. Powers, D.
Yesner, and J. Hoffecker for their helpful comments on
early drafts of this paper. Most of all, I want to express
my gratitude to John P. Cook, who more than anyone
else has helped me to recognize the importance of
microblades in the archaeological record of the north,
no matter the age or context.
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... Those sites appear to be in secondary contexts, so that radiocarbon ages associated with lithic industries cannot be reliably connected (Goebel, 2002) The hiatus in the archaeological record between 19,000 and 18,000 B.P. suggests that humans left Siberia during the LGM and that microblade technology originated in temperate Asia, perhaps in central or eastern Mongolia (Goebel, 2002). ...
... Those sites appear to be in secondary contexts, so that radiocarbon ages associated with lithic industries cannot be reliably connected (Goebel, 2002) The hiatus in the archaeological record between 19,000 and 18,000 B.P. suggests that humans left Siberia during the LGM and that microblade technology originated in temperate Asia, perhaps in central or eastern Mongolia (Goebel, 2002). ...
... Microlithic technology shows gradual development in the UP of Siberia. (Vasil'ev 2005, Keates's personal communication, Keates, 2007 Later Upper Paleolithic (LUP) industry shows significant difference with the Middle Upper Paleolithic (MUP) industry in Upper Yenisei River Basin, suggesting that microblade technology came from other regions, such as Japan via the Russian Far East (Graf, 2009b(Graf, , 2010 Microlithic technology first emerged in the trans-Baikal of Siberia from local blade technology (agrees with Goebel, 2002), and then diffused into North China due to hunting Mammuthus-Coelodonta fauna which migrated southward prior to the LGM (Zhu, 2006(Zhu, , 2008 See S.-Q. Chen (2008b) Microblade technology first appeared in the Altai Mountain area during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition (35 ky uncal. ...
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This project aims to provide a culture-ecological explanation of variation and change among microblade-based societies in Northeastern Asia during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene between c. 30,000 - 6,000 years ago. Assuming that paleoenvironmental changes stimulated cultural changes due to available food resources and that local environment conditioned cultural variation, the development of microblade-based societies can be divided into four phases (c.30-22 kya, 22-15 kya, 15-10 kya, 10-c.1 kya uncal. BP) in four regions (north continental, south continental, north insular, and south insular). The study’s macroecological approach based on Constructing Frames of Reference (Binford 2001) is applied to elucidate the dynamics and mechanisms of cultural variation and change among microblade-based societies. After mapping the main impacts of Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) climatic conditions on the lifeways of hunter-gatherers, output files of the EnvCalc2.1 program under glacial and interglacial climatic conditions provide comparative frames of reference for the microblade-based societies in Northeast Asia. This dissertation combines the macroecological approach, the paleoclimate record, and lithic technological organization against the background of two waves of cultural change. The first wave involved the formation and convergence of microblade-based societies (in MIS 3 to MIS 2, Phase I to Phase II), referring to case studies in the “Southern Siberia Belt” and Northern China, while the second wave was the development and ultimate divergence of microblade-based societies (MIS 2 to MIS 1, Phases II and III to Phase IV), involving case studies in the Japanese Archipelago, Eastern Siberia, Northern China, and the Tibetan Plateau. The six case studies suggest that the macroecological approach is much more productive and has greater explanatory power than previous, culture-historical studies of the microblade phenomenon. The results of the analyses suggest that the origin and spread of microblade technology involved complex cultural processes driven by the reduction of ungulate biomass under LGM climatic conditions and existing local technological traditions, rather than being simply explained by human migration events eastward to the Paleo-Sakhalin-Hokkaido-Kuril (PSHK) Peninsula and southward to Northern China from the Transbaikal region of Eastern Siberia. During the Pleistocene to Holocene transition, the shift from Late Paleolithic to Mesolithic-like industries in the Japanese Archipelago and Eastern Siberia, hallmarked by replacement of microblade technology with alternative stone point technologies, was associated with relatively xi higher percentages of aquatic resources in human subsistence, adoption of ceramic technology, and the establishment of sedentism. The adoption of agriculture in Northern China was associated with decline of microblade technology during the early Holocene, a phenomenon that is explained in the macroecological approach by replacement of hunting-dominated economies by gathering- and/or- fishing-dominated economies linked with population growth during the interglacial or interstadial periods, matching the maps under the packed condition of regional population. The three stages of development of microblade-based societies on the Tibetan Plateau witnessed colonization from the northeastern and southeastern edges of this major upland, suggesting that the combination of hunting-gathering and farming economies helped early Tibetans to fully occupy the Earth’s highest associated with low effective temperatures and a short growing season. Thus, the diversification of microblade-based societies during the post-LGM resulted as responses to diverse environmental conditions across this vast region of the world during a time of major climatic fluctuations.
... An undisputed presence appeared only after 17,000 years ago when sites like Diuktai Cave were occupied (see Figures 4.1 and 4.2) (Mochanov and Fedoseeva 1996). Along the same lines, it is not understood why humans remained in Beringia around the LGM when widespread human population contraction seems to have occurred elsewhere in northeast Asia (Tseitlin 1979, 129;Goebel 1999;2002;Graf 2005;Buvit et al. 2015;Terry et al. 2016;Rybin et al. 2016;Graf and Buvit 2017;Guan et al. 2020), leaving one to ask why would the most arctic location be an exception? Most troublesome for the BSH is the lack of unquestionable material evidence where the focus for a standstill has been, in Alaska, before 14,500 years ago (Holmes 2001;Graf and Bigelow 2011;Graf and Buvit 2017;Wygal et al. 2018;Waters 2019). ...
... Archaeological radiocarbon dates are often used as a proxy for prehistoric Eurasian human population levels with two sides formingone sees clear gaps in the record, indicating a hiatus in human occupation at or around the LGM (Tseitlin 1979: 129;Goebel 1999Goebel , 2002Dolukhanov 2004;Graf 2005;Buvit et al. 2015;Graf and Buvit 2017), and the other sees continuous population levels up to, and through, the same period (Kuzmin and Keates 2005;Fiedel and Kuzmin 2007;Kuzmin 2008;Kuzmin et al. 2011). In Figure 4.5, however, when median calibrated 14 C dates from archaeological sites are plotted per century, the widest gaps in the records of Beringia, Mongolia, and all of southern Siberia occur around the global LGM (26,000-20,000 years ago; Clark et al. 2009). ...
... Between 1995 and 2008, rescue campaigns of the Shirataki sites preceded highway construction (HAOC Hokkaido Archaeological Operation Center, 2000d, 2002, 2004a, 2004b, 2007a, 2007b, 2009, 2011, 2013 amounting to an excavation area of nearly 1,230,000 m 2 and more than 6,700,000 lithic artefacts (weight = 13.6 t), the vast amount of which can be refit almost in their entirety allowing archaeologists to investigate reduction sequences in extraordinary detail. The Shirataki assemblages are divided into 16 stone industries that involve, in part, tools made from trapezoids, flakes, blades, and microblades, as well as bifacial, stemmed and lanceolate points (see Figure 4.4) Naoe, Suzuki, and Sakamoto 2016). ...
Historically, models explaining first Americans described a terrestrial journey across a mammoth steppe, spanning the Bering land bridge, and finally traversing an ice-free corridor into uninhabited North America. These land-based scenarios, however, failed to adequately explain early lithic toolkit variability, prompting many researchers to admit at least part of the journey included a coastal corridor. Still, many questions regarding routes, timing, technologies, and especially prehistoric migration, remain unanswered. Instead of maritime adaptation only after reaching Beringia by foot, the earliest archaeological record of the Americas may best be explained with more emphasis on coastal migration. Further, given the ample available evidence from stone tools to reconstruct ancient migration routes into the Americas, new attention is best paid to tracing the appearance of northeast Asian wedge-shaped microblade core technology and bifacial projectile points to understand prehistoric population dynamics across the northern Pacific Rim, since these two technologies potentially represent material evidence of the first humans in Eastern Beringia and the Americas south of the continental ice sheets. The Pleistocene peopling of the Americas possibly began around the Last Glacial Maximum when descendants of Ancient Siberians sought refuge on an ice age peninsula formed by Sakhalin, Hokkaido, and a few of the Kuril Islands. Within a few thousand years, after splitting from Ancestral Native Americans, a group of Palaeo Siberians equipped with wedge-shaped microblade cores likely left the peninsula and made their way back to repopulate continental northeast Asia, eventually crossing the Bering land bridge to Alaska by 14,500 calendar years ago. This distinct stone tool technology enabled Pleistocene foragers to return to a greatly depopulated Siberia during late stages of the Last Glacial Maximum. Additionally, since the earliest sites south of North America’s ice sheets do not produce wedge-shaped microblade cores, there is no evidence that people with the technology made it there. In contrast, by at least 16,000 years ago, discreet occupation surfaces on the peninsula comprised large bifaces, prismatic blades, various microblade core types, and stemmed/lanceolate projectile points, all similar to those discovered at the earliest archaeological sites in Beringia and the Americas. It was the makers of the latter artifacts who may have initially traveled along a coastal corridor whose descendants inhabited Paisley Caves, OR, Cooper’s Ferry, ID, Gault-Friedkin, TX, Monte Verde, Chile, and a host of other pre-Clovis locations.
... It has even been argued that the inland environment of northeast Asia during the LGM was so harsh that areas north of 41 • N were completely abandoned (Barton et al. 2007;Ji et al. 2005from d'Alpoim Grudes et al. 2016. Furthermore, there are reports that the LGM in Siberia was too harsh for mobile hunter-gatherers to permanently inhabit the region (Goebel 2002(Goebel , 2004Dolukhanov et al. 2002;Graf 2009), despite some assessments suggesting that depopulation was not so severe (Kuzmin 2007;Kuzmin and Keates 2013). ...
... As shown in Figs. 2 and 3, population growth on the Korean Peninsula during the LGM coincided with the abandonment, or at least significant decline of occupation, of areas above 41 • N ( Barton et al. 2007Barton et al. , 2011d'Alpoim Guedes et al. 2016;Dolukhanov et al. 2002;Goebel 2002;Graf 2009;Rybin et al. 2016). The rapid dispersal of the microlithic tradition to Korea from the northern latitudes across vast tracts of land implies a population influx of hunter-gatherers that were highly mobile, yet maintained extensive social networks (Barton et al. 2007;Seong 2007). ...
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While adaptive responses to ecological settings have been the focus of traditional approaches to the spatial organization of mobile hunter-gatherers, social factors also affect the positioning of bands. Hunter-gatherers position themselves in locations not just to exploit food resources, but also to maintain a certain distance to neighboring bands. Hunter-gatherer spatial organization was an agglomerated consequence of balancing two behaviors: spacing and proximizing. Thus, any given band’s decision to relocate affects other bands’ positioning, possibly resulting in a domino effect on a regional scale. We explain population fluctuations in Korea from the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) to the early Holocene. The population history of southern Korea is characterized by an increasing occupational density during the LGM and population decline in periods of climatic amelioration. Contrasting this pattern to the population fluctuations observed in the northern latitudes of continental East Asia, we suggest that population increase in southern Korea during the LGM resulted from the southward movement of a wider hunter-gatherer network. As sea levels rose during the post-LGM, the network moved to the north and bands on the southern Korean peninsula moved north to avoid isolation. This process explains depopulation on the peninsula during the post-LGM and early Holocene.
... Furthermore, it appears that the gaps for the Altai Mts. and the sparse record in Mongolia are similar in length to gaps before and after the LGM. The gaps indicated by arrows in Fig. 2 are similar to other gaps, but they also (1) are described by a number of different researchers (Goebel 1999(Goebel , 2002Graf 2009aGraf , 2009bKeates et al. 2019;Kuzmin et al. 2011;Rybin et al. 2016), (2) fall around the LGM, (3) are the largest in places with 27 or more dates, (4) divide shifts in lithic technologies, and (5) line up fairly well to changes in environmental conditions. If these gaps are proxy for human populations, then we might assume their levels decreased across Siberia, Mongolia, and much of the interior. ...
Full-text available
For decades, archaeologists have debated whether Paleolithic humans withdrew from Northeast Asia during the Last Gla-cial Maximum (LGM), an issue especially important for the Pleistocene peopling of Siberia, Beringia, and the Americas. Evidence suggests a population contraction occurred around the global LGM between 26,000 and 20,000 cal BP. For one, gaps exist in prehistoric 14 C records that separate older sites with no wedge-shaped microblade cores from younger sites with the technology. Also, variation between actual and simulated distributions of dates indicates periods of abandonment rather than continuous occupation. The maritime region of Sakhalin and Hokkaido, in contrast, may have experienced population expansion at the time when the islands were connected to mainland Asia as part of a peninsula. It is further possible that the genetic split between Paleo Siberians and ancestral Native Americans can be traced archaeologically through the distribution of wedge-shaped microblade cores from the coastal zones back into interior regions following the population contractions. Finally, if humans retreated from a greater part of Northeast Asia at the LGM, then a genetic standstill in Beringia or Siberia is difficult to reconcile.
... The earliest pressure technique has been introduced in bifacially prepared, or narrow-faced cores, in assemblages from Sibero-Mongolian region (see Gladyshev et al. 2010Gladyshev et al. , 2012. Narrow-faced core technology has been widely recognized in lithic industries from southern Siberia, northern China, Japan, and the New World Arctic and as west as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and since 1930s it has been considered as index fossils in tracing another population/culture movement from its origins in Sibero-Mongolian region (see Fig. 1 ;Brunet 2012;Chun and Xiang-Qian 1989;Goebel 2002;Hayashi 1968;Kobayashi 1970;Morlan 1970Morlan , 1978Tabarev 1997). ...
Conference Paper
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Pressure technique in microblade production has long been recognized in Neolithic chipped stone assemblages of southeastern Caspian Sea and core preparation methods and reduction sequences have been introduced as prismatic “bullet cores”. By differentiating between production “techniques” and “methods”, a distinction between microblade production methods becomes clear in chipped stone assemblages from Mesolithic to Neolithic and later periods, mostly from cave sites of Komishan, Kamarband, Hotu and Ali Tappeh (aka Al Tappeh). Bifacial preparation of microbladecores is only apparent in post-Mesolithic assemblages in Caspian sites. These cores, introduced in Far East assemblages as “Yubetsu”, have been widely recognized in lithic industries from southern Siberia, northern China, Japan, and the New World Arctic and as west as Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. They are considered as fossil index in tracing cultural relationships between these regions since 1930s. This research introduces the similar techniques observed in preparing variants of narrow-faced cores, mainly in Komishan and Al Tappeh, which are the type sites of Caspian Mesolithic and Neolithic, and a discussion regarding the transfer of either technical knowledge or displacement of populations, or a local development at the end of the Pleistocene and during the Early Holocene follows; as this is the initial identification and research on Narrow-faced cores in Iran, a conclusive inference must wait for further assemblages to be added to the discussion.
... A substantial number of radiocarbon dates from UP archaeological sites belong to the period known as the LGM, 26.5-19 ka BP (Clark et al., 2009;Iizuka and Izuho, 2017) in Korea. Thus, we suspect that Korea was a population refugium during the LGM when cold and dry conditions dominated the northern latitudes where a significant population decline is recognized, such as in northwestern China (Barton et al., 2007(Barton et al., , 2011d'Alpoim Guedes et al., 2016;Pei et al., 2012;Yi et al., 2014: 102-03), southern Siberia (Goebel, 2002(Goebel, , 2004Graf, 2009), and Mongolia (Rybin et al., 2016). However, in Korea occupation densities after the LGM dropped abruptly, as tanged points are no longer part of the lithic assemblage (Kim & Seong, 2022). ...
... Foot bones were found "considerably below the rest of the skeleton" [3] (p. 85), leading to the suggestion that the animal had been immovably stuck in wet deposits. Bed II also yielded an assortment of other elephant bones with modifications, which have been interpreted as battering, flaking, and abrasion from use [3] (pp. [239][240][241][242][243][244]. Near the Deinotherium skeleton, a crushed hyena skull was found along with part of a suid jaw, a Damaliscus sp. ...
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This is a peer-reviewed and corrected/updated discussion of >100 late Quaternary proboscidean sites in Africa, Europe, and Asia with evidence for hominin involvement. Lower Palaeolithic/Early Stone Age hominins created far fewer proboscidean assemblages than hominins in later Palaeolithic phases, in spite of the time span being many times longer. Middle Palaeolithic/Middle Stone Age hominins created assemblages at eight times the earlier hominin rate. Upper Palaeolithic/Later Stone Age hominins created site assemblages at >90 times the rate of Lower Palaeolithic hominins. Palaeoloxodon spp. occur in nearly one third of the sites with an identified or probable proboscidean taxon and Mammuthus species are in nearly one half of the sites with identified or probable taxon.
... Further, it appears that the gaps for the Altai Mountains and the sparse record in Mongolia are similar in length to gaps before and after the LGM. The gaps indicated by arrows in Figure 2 are similar to other gaps, but they also; 1) are described by a number of different researchers (Goebel 1999(Goebel , 2002Graf 2009aGraf , 2009bKeates et al. 2019;Kuzmin et al. 2011;Rybin et al. 2016), 2) fall around the LGM, 3) are the largest in places with 27 or more dates, 4) divide changes in lithic technologies, and 5) line up fairly well to changes in environmental conditions. If these gaps are proxy for human population levels, then we might assume they decreased across Siberia, Mongolia, and much of the interior. ...
Full-text available
For decades archaeologists have debated whether Paleolithic humans withdrew from Northeast Asia during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), an issue with especially important implications for the Pleistocene peopling of Siberia, Beringia, and the Americas. Evidence suggests a major population contraction occurred in all three areas around the time of the global LGM between around 26,000 and 20,000 cal BP. For one, gaps exist in prehistoric 14 C records that separate older sites with no wedge-shaped microblade cores from younger sites with this distinctive technology. Also, variation between actual and simulated distributions of dates indicates periods of abandonment through time rather than continuous occupation. The maritime region of Sakhalin and Hokkaido, in contrast, may have experienced population expansion when the islands were connected to mainland Asia as part of a peninsula. It is further possible that the genetic split between Paleo Siberians and ancestral Native Americans can be traced archaeologically through the distribution of wedge-shaped microblade core technology from the coastal zones back into interior regions following each population contraction. Finally, if humans retreated from a greater part of Northeast Asia at the LGM, then a genetic standstill in Beringia or Siberia is difficult to reconcile.
... D'un cô té , quelques assertions pré tendent que la technique du dé bitage lamellaire existe depuis l'é poque initiale du Palé olithique supé rieur dans divers endroits en Sibé rie (Derevianko, 2001 ;Kuzmin, 2007). D'un autre côté , il y a une autre hypothè se, selon laquelle elle commence à partir du Wü rm III ré cent (Goebel, 2002). En ce qui concerne ce point de discussion, le problè me reste entier sur la datation des industries à dé bitage lamellaire provenant de la phase mé diane du Palé olithique supé rieur en Sibé rie. ...
Résumé Le but de cet article est de présenter une révision des connaissances actuelles sur le Paléolithique et le cadre environnemental naturel de l’Extrême-Orient eurasien et de l’île d’Hokkaido située à l’extrémité septentrionale de l’archipel du Japon. Il est difficile d’établir si les êtres humains archaïques se sont dispersés de Sibérie et de la Chine du nord à travers le bassin du fleuve Amur puis par l’île de Sakhalin jusqu’à l’île d’Hokkaïdôcar il n’y a aucune évidence fiable qui indique un Paléolithique inférieur et moyen à Hokkaïdô. Nous démontrons que les industries lithiques du Paléolithique supérieur provenant de l’île d’Hokkaïdô peuvent être divisées en trois phases au moins, telles que le Paléolithique supérieur ancien (EUP), le Paléolithique supérieur moyen (MUP) et le Paléolithique supérieur récent (LUP), basées sur les datations radioactives et les caractéristiques techno-typologiques des industries lithiques. Il est raisonnable de suggérer que l’industrie lithique du site de Rubenosawa, situé au nord d'Hokkaido , et que certains des assemblages lithiques à la transition du Paléolithique moyen au Paléolithique supérieur ou du Paléolithique supérieur initial en Sibérie partagent des similitudes relatives d'attributs techno-typologiques dans les séquences de la réduction, bien que les dates de carbone 14 fiables n’ont malheureusement pas été obtenues dans le site de Rubenosawa. L’apparition de la méthode de débitage lamellaire au Paléolithique supérieur moyen dans l’île d’Hokkaïdô, telle qu’on l’a découverte dans le site de Kashiwadaï-1, au centre d’Hokkaïdô, indique une interaction proche entre l’Extrême-Orient eurasien et la région concernée. En conséquence, la comparaison archéologique dans ces régions nous suggère que l’apparence et le développement des industries lithiques du Paléolithique supérieur dans la région d’Hokkaïdô ont été associées quelquefois aux dispersions humaines et à la traversée des contacts mutuels entre l’Extrême-Orient eurasien et Hokkaido.
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Paper describes a free-hand pressure technique of microblade manufacture and examines some of the sources of variability in microblades and microblade cores reported from archaeological sites in northeast Asia and northwest North America
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Humans at the End of the Ice Age chronicles and explores the significance of the variety of cultural responses to the global environmental changes at the last glacial-interglacial boundary. Contributions address the nature and consequences of the global climate changes accompanying the end of the Pleistocene epoch-detailing the nature, speed, and magnitude of the human adaptations that culminated in the development of food production in many parts of the world. The text is aided by vital maps, chronological tables, and charts.
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In 1998, geoarchaeological research was carried out at Stud'onoye, a late Upper Paleolithic site in the Transbaikal Region of Russia. The site is situated on two terraces. The oldest terrace (T2) is composed of three depositional units. Moreover, T2 consists of at least 43 fining-upward sequences with no paleosol formation. T2 began forming prior to 18,000 years ago. The first terrace (T1) ranges in age from ca. 13,000 to ca. 2000 years ago. T1 is divided in to four depositional units, but they consist of at least 12 fining-upward sequences and 12 distinct paleosols. Granulometric analyses confirm the alluvial origin of the deposits at Stud'onoye. They consist mainly of fine sands and coarse silts with little clay. Histograms of particle size distributions are bimodal for soils, which indicates slight increases in the relative amounts of loess or colluvium, and unimodal for unaltered sediments, evidence of a single depositional source. Stable isotope analyses on organic horizons from the paleosols were conducted to reconstruct changing vegetation and climate of the site. However, this technique yielded inconclusive results. Although d13C values are all within the range for C3 plants, there is a trend for the values to increase with depth and age in the profile. d15N values, on the other hand, decrease with depth and age. To draw definitive conclusions from these data, more isotopic studies need to be conducted, and their results should be combined with the results of other stable isotope analyses such as d34S. Archaeological material from both terraces includes dwellings, hearths, and thousands of bone and stone artifacts assigned to late Upper Paleolithic through Bronze Age cultures. Excavations continue at T2 and recent finds include mobiliary art, bone needles, and a large Paleolithic dwelling with at least five hearth features. Finally, microblade technology is present in all components of the site, from the Paleolithic through the Bronze Age.
The first results of radiocarbon dating of the ancient sites in the Russian Far East were published early in the 1960s (Okladnikov 1964). We now have enough data to establish the main features in the 14 C chronology of the Stone and Bronze Age cultures in Primorye, one of the archaeologically well-studied regions of the Russian Far East.
Throughout western Europe, the Pleistocene—Holocene transition is characterized by marked environmental and cultural changes. Following the gradual retreat of the Weichselian glacier, large areas in the north and northeast were again-or at last-made available to human settlement. Obviously, then, this period is one of great archaeological significance. The settling of the north following the retreat of the ice must have been a major challenge, demanding a high degree of past human adaptivity An examination of the gradual northward migration of flora, fauna, and people into the virgin areas of southern Scandinavia is thus of general methodological interest. Most important, it enables us to examine the nature and timing of possible relationships between long-term environmental and cultural change throughout a geographically extensive region.
The problems of the peopling of Siberia and those of the peopling of the New World are one and the same. Regardless of when or how many times humans pressed north and east across this vast region, the successful solution to the adaptive problems they faced was an absolute precondition to their entry into the Western Hemisphere. During the last Glacial Maximum and spanning the late Glacial periods, lowered sea levels had united Asia and America at Beringia. Northern Asia experienced no continental glaciation, whereas northern North America was virtually locked in ice from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Large areas of eastern Beringia (Alaska and the northern part of the Yukon Territory) remained ice-free and may have been connected at times to interior North America through an ice-free corridor. But for all practical purposes, the unglaciated regions of northwest North America had become an extension of Asia and were virtually cut off from the rest of North America.
After more than a century of discovery and debate and nearly two centuries after Thomas Jefferson’s speculation that North American Indians and northern Asiatics must have had a common origin (see Wilmsen 1965), we still do not know when man entered the New World. Two hundred thousand years or more are claims for greatest antiquity (Budinger 1983; Irving 1985; Steen-Mclntyre et al. 1981), but neither these nor the more modest claims of others (Bryan 1978; MacNeish 1976, 1978, 1979; Morlan 1980) have been accepted in critical reviews (Dincauze 1984; Owen 1984; Waters 1985). There is widespread evidence for human occupation after 12,000 years ago, and new South American data imply that people reached North America at an earlier time (Bryan 1986).
This book is a fully updated and revised edition of William Andrefsky Jr's ground-breaking manual on lithic analysis. Designed for students and professional archaeologists, this highly illustrated book explains the fundamental principles of the measurement, recording and analysis of stone tools and stone tool production debris. Introducing the reader to lithic raw materials, classification, terminology and key concepts, it comprehensively explores methods and techniques, presenting detailed case studies of lithic analysis from around the world. It examines new emerging techniques, such as the advances being made in lithic debitage analysis and lithic tool analysis, and includes a new section on stone tool functional studies.