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The archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface: the case of Mira in the Middle Dnieper area

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This paper presents the first results of the investigation of the new Early Upper Paleolithic open-air site of Mira in the Middle Dnieper area, eastern Europe, Ukraine. Mira yields two distinct Paleolithic occupations (II/2 and I) separated by the remains of a natural burning event (II/1). The Mira I assemblage exhibits a proliferation of Middle and Upper Paleo-lithic features, while the underlying the Mira II/2 appears to be true UP. The archaeological evidence provides some im-portant clues to the problem of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in eastern Europe. This paper deals mainly with the characteristics of the lithic assemblages of layers II/2 and I. GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND STRATIGRAPHY The open-air site of Mira is located in the val-ley of the river Dnieper on the right bank, near the village of Kanevskoye, about 15 km south of Za-porozhiye, central Ukraine (47°40' of N latitude and 34°50' of E longitude; see Fig. 1). Its deposits are incorporated within the alluvial terrace whose altitude is about 18–20 m above the river level and 40 m.a.s.l. (Stepanchuk et al., 1998; Stepan-chuk and Cohen, 2001). The stratigraphical record of Mira encom-passes almost 12 m of sedimentary successions exposed along the slope of a ravine descending to the Dnieper River. Dark gray sandy loams con-taining remains of all archaeological layers ap-peared to be sandwiched between two sandy members of the Dnieper alluvium, and overlain by subaeral sediments (Fig. 2). N. Gerasimenko and P. Haesaerts recognize 28 distinct layers clustered into four stratigraphic units (Haesaerts et al., in press; Stepanchuk et al., in press). Lithological, geomorphological, paly-nological, anthracological, micro-and megafau-nal analyses as well as radiometric (AMS and conventional 14 C) data allow an accurate correla-tion of the culture-bearing layers with the De-nekamp/late Vitachiv/Bryansk interstadial of the Middle Pleniglacial and place both Paleolithic oc-cupations between 27–28 ky BP. Eight conventional radiocarbon dates were obtained in the Kiev laboratory and three AMS in Groningen, the latter on the samples analyzed for charcoal by F. Damblon (Table 1). The data sug-gests both successive Paleolithic occupations and an interbedded episode of natural conflagration dated to between 27–28 ky BP. In accordance with geological data and on the basis of the radio-metric dates of layers I, II/1, and II/2, they are all separated by relatively short span of time. Detailed descriptions of the stratigraphic suc-cession, the palynological record, the anthra-cological analysis, and the environmental evolution are being published elsewhere (Hae-saerts et al., in press; Stepanchuk et al., in press). These data indicate that the Paleolithic occupa-tions accumulated in the alluvial plain of the Dnieper, at some distance from the valley slope, probably in the vicinity of the fluvial channel. The occupation of layer II/2 took place in a grass and sedge environment of the flood plain during the time of soil formation at the top of layer 27. Ar-chaeological layer I is associated with the base of
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Eurasian Prehistory, 3 (1): 23–41.
THE ARCHAIC TO TRUE UPPER PALEOLITHIC INTERFACE:
THE CASE OF MIRA IN THE MIDDLE DNIEPER AREA
Vadim N. Stepanchuk
Stone Age Department, Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
Heroes of Stalingrad Avenue, 12, 04210 Kiev, Ukraine; vadimstepanchuk@ukr.net
Abstract
This paper presents the first results of the investigation of the new Early Upper Paleolithic open-air site of Mira in the
Middle Dnieper area, eastern Europe, Ukraine. Mira yields two distinct Paleolithic occupations (II/2 and I) separated by
the remains of a natural burning event (II/1). The Mira I assemblage exhibits a proliferation of Middle and Upper Paleo-
lithic features, while the underlying the Mira II/2 appears to be true UP. The archaeological evidence provides some im-
portant clues to the problem of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in eastern Europe. This paper deals mainly with
the characteristics of the lithic assemblages of layers II/2 and I.
GEOGRAPHIC SETTING
AND STRATIGRAPHY
The open-air site of Mira is located in the val-
ley of the river Dnieper on the right bank, near the
village of Kanevskoye, about 15 km south of Za-
porozhiye, central Ukraine (47°40’ of N latitude
and 34°50’ of E longitude; see Fig. 1). Its deposits
are incorporated within the alluvial terrace whose
altitude is about 18–20 m above the river level
and 40 m.a.s.l. (Stepanchuk et al., 1998; Stepan-
chuk and Cohen, 2001).
The stratigraphical record of Mira encom-
passes almost 12 m of sedimentary successions
exposed along the slope of a ravine descending to
the Dnieper River. Dark gray sandy loams con-
taining remains of all archaeological layers ap-
peared to be sandwiched between two sandy
members of the Dnieper alluvium, and overlain
by subaeral sediments (Fig. 2).
N. Gerasimenko and P. Haesaerts recognize
28 distinct layers clustered into four stratigraphic
units (Haesaerts et al., in press; Stepanchuk et al.,
in press). Lithological, geomorphological, paly-
nological, anthracological, micro- and megafau-
nal analyses as well as radiometric (AMS and
conventional 14C) data allow an accurate correla-
tion of the culture-bearing layers with the De-
nekamp/late Vitachiv/Bryansk interstadial of the
Middle Pleniglacial and place both Paleolithic oc-
cupations between 27–28 ky BP.
Eight conventional radiocarbon dates were
obtained in the Kiev laboratory and three AMS in
Groningen, the latter on the samples analyzed for
charcoal by F. Damblon (Table 1). The data sug-
gests both successive Paleolithic occupations and
an interbedded episode of natural conflagration
dated to between 27–28 ky BP. In accordance
with geological data and on the basis of the radio-
metric dates of layers I, II/1, and II/2, they are all
separated by relatively short span of time.
Detailed descriptions of the stratigraphic suc-
cession, the palynological record, the anthra-
cological analysis, and the environmental
evolution are being published elsewhere (Hae-
saerts et al., in press; Stepanchuk et al., in press).
These data indicate that the Paleolithic occupa-
tions accumulated in the alluvial plain of the
Dnieper, at some distance from the valley slope,
probably in the vicinity of the fluvial channel. The
occupation of layer II/2 took place in a grass and
sedge environment of the flood plain during the
time of soil formation at the top of layer 27. Ar-
chaeological layer I is associated with the base of
the A1 horizon of layer 24, characterized by a
prevalence of meadow vegetation, and later on
with the occurrence of pine and juniper (Fig. 2).
TAPHONOMIC ISSUES
Both Mira I and Mira II/2 are associated with
the soil formation processes. The remains of hu-
man activities were likely quickly buried after the
occupation, ensuring the good preservation of
artifacts and the site’s structure. Special analyses
of taphonomic aspects of both geological and ar-
chaeological layers were undertaken (Stepan-
chuk, 2004a). The following factors were
examined, namely: geological indications of wa-
ter erosion, colluvial processes, cryogenic trans-
formations, archaeological indications on the
spatial and 3D distribution of different categories
of paleontological, lithic and bone artifacts, vari-
ous pits and objects. These analyses point to the
24 V. N. Stepanchuk
Fig. 1. The location of the site of Mira. Dashed lines show the remote sources of raw materials used in Mira layer
I and II/2
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 25
Fig. 2. Stratigraphical sequence of the site of Mira (after P. Haesaerts et al., in press). Graphic symbols: 1 – sandy
loess; 2 – sand; 3 – strong humiferous horizon; 4 – weak humiferous sediment; 5 – pale brown sandy loess; 6 – pris-
matic structure; 7 – bleached horizon with iron staining; 8 – root tracks; 9 – krotovina; 10 – charcoal concentration;
11 – artifact; 12 – bone; 13 – lithostratigrafic unit; 14 and 15 – archaeological layers
good state of preservation of Mira—both in the
geological and archaeological senses. The impor-
tance of the Mira cultural sequence calls for a
thorough examination of data, which would per-
mit the evaluation of the homogeneity of Paleo-
lithic occupations (Stepanchuk, in press). The
lithological layers, including the remains of ar-
chaeological occupations, provide no evidence of
intensive water erosion and cryogenic transforma-
tions. The position of the remains on a practically
horizontal surface eliminates the potential action
of slope processes during the accumulation of the
remains as well as the post-depositional phase.
The analysis of the orientation of the larger faunal
remains from the archaeological layers shows a
random distribution. There are no indications of a
disturbance of the faunal remains due to the action
of water flows.
The presence of anatomically corresponding
groups of bones in layer I testify to a minimal rate
of redeposition. There is a clear discordance in the
distribution of “meaty” and “not meaty” parts of
the skeletons of mega and middle-size fauna.
Lithic artifacts are not rolled and do not show
evidence of patination. It is worthwhile to note the
presence of compact micro-concentrations of tiny
waste accumulations from tool re-sharpening and
modification. Individual peculiarities of raw ma-
terials in such micro-concentrations probably sug-
gest discrete episodes of curation of isolated tools.
There are clear differences in the spatial distribu-
tion of petrographically different artifacts. If flint
artifacts of the dominating group Ia1 are repre-
sented throughout all the excavated area of layer
I, artifacts of groups Ia–b (A, B, C, and D) are lo-
calized within a few distinct areas.
The comparison of the distribution of differ-
ent categories of tools – e.g., bifacial pieces,
endscrapers, sidescrapers, points, tools on micro-
flakes – clearly illustrates the presence of spatially
separated areas of a comparatively high concen-
tration. Layer I provides numerous small-sized
(up to 15 mm) fragments of different rocks. They
are not found in either layer II/1 or II/2 and per-
mits us to conclude that there is an absence of ver-
tical migration of the smallest sized remains.
It is worth stressing that there is a lack of evi-
dence of overlapped objects within the each single
occupation and spatial mismatching of concentra-
tions of the remains in different layers.
In sum, currently there are no signs of any
natural or anthropogenic mechanism that would
26 V. N. Stepanchuk
Table 1
Radiocarbon dates of Mira (after Stepanchuk et al., 2004)
Site/Layer Type of Industry Determination B.P. Sample Lab. No
Mira: I archaic UP 27600 ± 370 charcoal Ki-8152
Mira: I archaic UP 27200 ± 380 charcoal Ki-8153a
Mira: I archaic UP 27300 ± 390 charcoal Ki-8154
Mira: I archaic UP 27050 ± 350 bone Ki-8158
Mira: I archaic UP 26610 ± 400 bone Ki-10283
Mira: I archaic UP 27080 ± 400 charcoal Ki-10284
Mira: I archaic UP 28450 ± 1100 soil Ki-8381
Mira: I archaic UP 26590 ± 490/460 charcoal GrA-20019
Mira: II/1 natural conflagration 26800 ± 390 charcoal Ki-8155
Mira: II/1 natural conflagration 27160 ± 390 charcoal Ki-10346
Mira: II/1 natural conflagration 27830 ± 580/540 charcoal GrA-20020
Mira: II/2 "Gravettian" 27200 ± 360 charcoal Ki-8156
Mira: II/2 "Gravettian" 27510 ± 400 charcoal Ki-8201
Mira: II/2 "Gravettian" 27750 ± 590/550 charcoal GrA-20033
explain the mixed typological characteristics of
the artifacts of layer I as the results of a palimp-
sest. Hence, Mira layers I and II/1 represent sepa-
rate and homogeneous short-term occupations,
the remains of which provide good examples of
well-preserved living floors.
FLINT INDUSTRY OF THE LOWER
PALEOLITHIC OCCUPATION
(LAYER II/2)
The occupation of layer II/2 was uncovered
over an area ca. 60 m2. This layer contains several
utilitarian pits, several dozen splintered bones of
bison and wild horse, and about 200 knapped
flints. According to petrographical determination
(V. Petrougne), the outcrops used for lithic raw
materials were remote—at least 300 to 350 km
from the site and might be localized somewhere in
the western Ukraine.
The assemblage is very small. Therefore,
there is little technological and typological infor-
mation to report. There are a few flakes, flake
tools and the micro-waste of tools resulting from
rejuvenation and reshaping are dominant
(Table 2).
Backed blades (Fig. 3) represent the only
group of tools. These tools are made on narrow
(8–9 mm) and thin (2–3 mm) blades, which are
slightly curved in profile. From a technological
viewpoint such blanks clearly differ from the
flake products of layer I. As it seems, these blades
were struck from comparatively small single-
platform cores with rather narrow flaking surface.
Butts of the blades have been removed by
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 27
Table 2
Mira layer II/2: General structure of flint
assemblage (including fragmented artifacts)
Artifact N %
without
chips,
N
without
chips,
%
Flakes 5 3.067 5 33.333
Flake tools 10 6.135 10 66.666
Chips 148 90.798
Total 163 100.000 15 99.999
1
2
3
45
Fig. 3. Mira layer II/2 flint artifacts; 1–5, complete and fragmented backed blades
retouch. The flake butts are lineal and lipped.
There is one piece with traces of abrasion on the
striking platform. Thus, the typology is of a typi-
cal Upper Paleolithic soft hammer knapping tech-
nique.
The type list consists of five complete and
fragmented backed blades, one ordinary thin an-
gle endscraper, two fragments of flake tools, and
two micro-flakes with retouch of utilization.
Backed blades are rather small, about four cm
long, delicate, and quasi-triangular pieces. The
slightly concave or straight right edge is shaped
by direct abrupt retouch, varying in type depend-
ing on the thickness of the area along the edge of
each blank. A short left edge associated with
proximal end of a blade is bluntly retouched and
is classified as oblique truncation. Both conver-
gent retouched edges form an acute angle. Analo-
gies to this morphologically consistent series of
backed blades appear to be in Gravettian assem-
blages. However, there are no morphological
counterparts in chronologically corresponding as-
semblages of adjacent territories but perhaps in
distant Gravettian assemblages (e.g., Otte, 1985;
Kozlowski, 1986; Harrold, 1993; Svoboda, 1996;
Svoboda et al., 1996; Amirkhanov, 1998).
Instead, a good resemblance may be found in
the Aurignacian horizon 24A1 of grotte Paglicci
in Italy, dated to ca. 29 ky BP (Palma di Cesnola,
1996). Palma di Cesnola’s (2000) description of
backed bladelets of type Paglicci 24A1 is strik-
ingly similar to Mira II/2 backed implements.
However, at this point in our research there is no
need for further discussion of the nature of such a
resemblance until additional data on Mira layer
II/2 is available.
FLINT INDUSTRY OF THE UPPER PA-
LEOLITHIC OCCUPATION (LAYER I)
About 50 m2were exposed. This layer repre-
sents an intensively utilized area with hearths,
various pits, abundant faunal remains, and lithics.
The peculiarities of the flint industry allow us to
suggest its origin in the east Carpathians. The
presence of quantitatively rare typical flints from
the valleys of big rivers localized between the Ro-
manian east Carpathians and the Dnieper River
points to a comparatively rapid migration. Faunal
analyses show a predominance of wild horse
(71.8% of NIB), followed by fox, steppe and po-
lar fox (21.6%); Asinus hydruntinus, giant deer,
red deer, reindeer, bison, mammoth, and wild
boar are present in low frequencies. The over-
whelming majority of the remains of Equus lati-
pes indicates intentional hunting. The presence of
almost all of the components of these horse skele-
tons suggests that the hunting and butchering took
place in proximity to the site. The skeletal re-
mains include six young, two semi-adult and eight
adult individuals. Two canines indicate the pres-
ence of one adult stallion. The entire set of horse
remains appears to be the result of one episode of
hunting on a harem group of horses.
The specifics of the spatial distribution of
various pits, especially postholes and hearths, as
well as the regularities of localized “meaty” and
“not-meaty” parts of the skeletons of large ani-
mals, remains of carnivores, as well as the flint
working waste concentration, allow us to recon-
struct dwelling construction in the southeast seg-
ment of the exposed area. Judging by the data, the
structure was a permanent spherical dwelling,
opened to the river, with a covered area of about
14.5 m2(Stepanchuk, 2004b). A fragment of a hu-
man molar identified by C. Turner (Stepanchuk et
al., 2004a) as belonging to Homo sapiens sapiens
was discovered within the contour of a dwelling
structure, where a pierced carnivore tooth and
fragments of engraved bone pieces were located.
Layer I
The petrographical analyses of the lithics (V.
Petrougne in Stepanchuk et al., 2004a) demon-
strated that the largest portion of the flints was im-
ported from very remote outcrops. The overall
weight of both flint and stone artifacts of pre-
sumably east Carpathian origins did not exceed
5 kg.
The layer I flint assemblage expresses an ex-
tremely transformed industry, which resulted
from the intensive utilization and re-utilization of
limited number of initially thoroughly sorted
lithic artifacts. There are almost no cores or ordi-
nary products of core knapping. Their absence
creates an additional difficulty in reconstructing
the technological parameters of knapping. The
only available cores are fully exhausted as well as
a few small fragments of raw materials, series of
flakes, flake tools, bifacial tools, and crucially
28 V. N. Stepanchuk
dominating chips or micro-wastes of bifacial and
flake tools’ knapping, sharpening and reshaping
(Table 3).
Technological aspect of Mira Layer I
assemblage
Technical indices were obtained on 650 com-
paratively large flakes (including retouched sam-
ples) from the sample from the 2000 excavation
season.
Flakes of this series indicate a high level of
faceting (IF = 31.6; Ifs = 26.57), modest level of
blade products (Ilam = 15.56), quite high percent-
age of flakes with a centripetal dorsal pattern
(14.51) but a prevailing parallel scar pattern
(43.14). At the same time the evidence of soft
hammer is common (index of lipping = 60.48).
A more detailed examination of technical pa-
rameters of flake products is based on the mor-
phology of the blanks. The indices of IF and Ilam
obtained for different groups of flakes are pre-
sented in Table 4. These results reflect only the
main core reduction trajectories. The commonly
accepted complex set of correlated attributes in-
cluding the dorsal pattern type, butt, profile, strike
zone preparation method (e.g., Anikovich et al.,
1997) were used for distinguishing flakes result-
ing from biface curation. Specific groups consist
of flakes struck from the interior surface of flake
tools and represent products that emanate from
various ventral thinning techniques. The main
features of these products are straight profile,
plain dorsal scar pattern and facetted butts (rem-
nant of the retouched edge of the thinned tool).
These flakes are somewhat similar to the products
of the Kombewa technique, but only in a formal
way. Massive and comparatively large blanks
with straight profiles and large butts were consid-
ered as products of regular knapping of cores. All
the available complete flakes have been taken into
account in this study and only the series of flakes
presumably struck from cores are regarded as ob-
jectively characterizing the technical aspects of
core reduction. The evidence that no parallel bi-
directional dorsal pattern was observed on flake
products is a definite indication that the cores had
only one striking platform. The pre-core stage in-
cluded the removal of ridge blades preparation as
shown by the rare crested products in the assem-
blage.
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 29
Table 3
Mira layer I: General structure of flint
assemblage (including fragmented artifacts)
Artifact N%
without
chips,
N
without
chips,
%
fragments
of raw
materials
5 0.009 5 0.364
cores 2 0.004 2 0.145
flakes 579 1.093 579 42.109
blades 26 0.049 26 1.891
bladelets 10 0.019 10 0.727
flake tools 721 1.36 721 52.436
bifacial
tools 32 0.06 32 2.327
chips 51,615 97.405 - -
Total 52,990 99.999 1,375 99.999
Table 4
Mira Layer I: The main technical indices of different groups of flakes
Only flakes
presumably struck
from cores
Only waste flakes
of biface working
Only waste flakes
of flake tool
thinning
Flakes
of undefinable
origins
Total
N= 257 N= 336 N=34 N= 659 N= 1286
IF 11 12.09 145 53.31 12 66.67 18 5.56 186 26.23
Ifs 7 7.69 140 51.47 10 55.56 17 5.25 174 24.54
Ilam 47 38.52 16 2.38 1 2.94 107 16.24 171 13.29
Similar observations were made on the pri-
mary blanks of 39 of the transformed tools.
Twenty-seven (69%) have been manufactured on
blades or bladey flakes. Their average width and
thickness constitutes 24.96 and 8.59 mm, respec-
tively. Twelve artifacts are large flakes, one of
which most likely resulted from the preparation of
a bifacial piece.
The large primary dimensions of biface ob-
jects are also confirmed by the presence of com-
paratively large flakes among the numerous
biface waste flakes, which have no metric consis-
tency with the available bifacial tools.
Table 5 provides information on the pre-
sumed position of the tool blanks in the techno-
logical chain of utilization of raw materials. The
following groups of blanks with respect to their
more likely origins are emphasized: I – testing of
raw materials; II – initial decortication of nodules;
III – reshaping of cores or half-made bifacial ob-
jects; IVa – resharpening of flake tools; IVb – re-
sharpening of bifacial tools; IVc – modification of
pre-shaped flake tools; and finally the category of
“indefinable”.
It seems that the appearance of artifacts as
Middle and/or Upper Paleolithic, is reflected in
the micro-components that comprise both re-
touched micro-flakes and micro-blades made
from all types of available blanks.
Thus, the primary composition of the industry
includes: a) massive and wide blades/bladey
flakes (probably struck by parallel single-
platform volumetric cores); and b) large bifacial
pieces. Retouched flake tools and bifacial tools
and/or pre-forms, and probably certain quantity of
raw materials by way of blanks and tested pieces
have been procured and brought to the site. The
following techniques were chosen for further
transformation of the initial flint artifacts: inten-
tional fragmentation, reshaping and rejuvenation,
thinning that includes core-like thinning, knap-
ping of bifacial blanks and largest blades and
flakes, as well as knapping of raw material pieces.
Two cores are inferred to be the products of cen-
tripetal knapping as determined by their morphol-
ogy; one of them is bifacial. A comparatively high
frequency of facetted butts points to the applica-
tion of the Middle Paleolithic mode of core reduc-
tion. Biface waste flakes demonstrate the usual
Middle Paleolithic appearance. Prevalence of
lipped platforms reflects soft hammer use. The
Mira sample shows frequent evidence of trim-
ming on the exterior margin of the striking plat-
forms of the majority of flake products (trimming
= 44.36), which is very common with the Upper
Paleolithic mode of reduction (Girya and Nek-
horoshev, 1993). Thus, Mira layer I demonstrates
a mixture of Middle and Upper Paleolithic tech-
nological features.
Typological aspect of Mira Layer I
assemblage
The typological variability of this industry
shows evident amalgamation of those features,
which are traditionally understood as either Mid-
dle or Upper Paleolithic ones (Table 6). These are
a combination of Middle and Upper Paleolithic
elements including those of the Aurignacian in-
dustries. Table 7 summarizes the numbers and
30 V. N. Stepanchuk
Table 5
Mira Layer I: Types of initial blanks of flake tools
Categories
of flake tools 0 I I or II II III IVa IVb IVc ?? Total
N
Total
%
MP - 6 - 9 - 3 1 7 10 36 4.99
UP - 9 1 21 2 3 1 12 10 59 8.18
Micro-
component - 7 3 29 - 178 34 2 23 276 38.28
Indifferent 1 21 7 57 - 49 34 24 157 350 48.54
Total N 1 43 11 116 2 233 70 45 200 721
Total % 0.14 5.96 1.53 16.09 0.27 32.32 9.71 6.24 27.73 99.99
frequencies of well-shaped macro-forms with
reference to their traditional terminology and
periodization. Middle Paleolithic types are the
points and sidescrapers on flakes (Fig. 4). The
presence of canted points, various sidescrapers,
and both thinned sidescrapers and points must be
emphasized. Upper Paleolithic types make up for
a well-defined group of endscrapers, among
which the subtriangular endscraper with re-
touched lateral edges is morphologically charac-
teristic (Fig. 5). There are no carinated forms that
would indicate an Aurignacian affiliation, al-
though many of endscrapers are rather thick. Bu-
rins are few and show no resharpening; angle
burins prevail.
Special attention is paid to the bifacial tools,
combined tools, retouched and backed bladelets,
and retouched and used micro-flakes.
Bifacial tools of layer I are represented by
four complete forms as well as a series of frag-
ments. There are 16 complete and fragments (tip
pieces) of leaf-shaped points and regular points,
one convergent sidescraper, and 15 indefinable
fragments (Fig. 6). Plano-convex profiles are
most common. As a rule the retouched edges are
associated with more convex surfaces. The
method of initial rough flaking and further re-
touching corresponds to the characteristic
fashioning of similar objects across central and
eastern European Micoquian of Middle Paleo-
lithic age (Bosinski, 1967; Wetzel and Bosinski,
1969). At the same time, there are no signs of
technical innovations inherent in Upper Paleo-
lithic bifacial manufacture (Bradley et al., 1995;
Girya, 1997), and recognized in eastern European
EUP industries such as the Streletskayan in the
Don basin and Buran-Kaya III: C in Crimea (Ro-
gachev and Anikovich, 1984; Marks and Moni-
gal, 2000; Chabai, 2004). The assemblage of Mira
layer I contains fine examples of true bifacial
tools with fine lateral retouch (two slightly asym-
metrical points and one leaf point (Fig. 6a–c) and
one example of a completely exhausted bifacial
form (formally defined as a leaf point; Fig. 6d).
From the typological viewpoint, the above
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 31
Table 6
Mira Layer I: Typological composition of tools on flakes
Category NCategory N
Mousterian point 13 Krems point 4
Canted point 3 Micro-point 7
Simple sidescraper 3 Dufour bladelet 15
Double sidescraper 2 non-geometrical microliths 138
Canted sidescraper 5 Truncations 6
Convergent sidescraper 2 Scaled pieces 20
Double convergent sidescraper 2 Borer 8
Sidescraper 3 Blade retouched 45
Combined tool 15 Bladelet retouched 50
Endscraper 36 Flake retouched 81
Burin 5 Micro-flake retouched 87
Points 18 Fragments of tools 153
Total 721
Table 7
Mira Layer I: Well-defined complete flake
macro-forms, indicative in sense
of traditional definition of archaeological epoch
Middle
Paleolithic
point 12 26 35.6 %
sidescraper 14
Upper
Paleolithic
endscraper 42 47 64.4 %
burin 5
mentioned asymmetrical points have direct analo-
gies in the context of the Middle Paleolithic Mico-
quian (or Keilmesser group; Bosinski 2000–
2001), while leaf points are known both European
Middle and Upper Paleolithic contexts.
The category of combined tools include 15
pieces. There are various combinations of end-
scrapers, sidescrapers, points, scaled thinnings,
etc. The examples of endscrapers-Mousterian
points (Fig. 5d–f) are the closest analogies to the
above-mentioned subtriangular laterally re-
touched endscrapers. The presence of combined
32 V. N. Stepanchuk
12
3
4
5
6
78910
Fig. 4. Mira layer I flint artifacts. 1 – canted point with ventral thinning opposed to tip; 2 – canted side-
scraper/point with opposed ventral thinning; 3 – Mousterian point/pointed blade; 4 – Mousterian point with ven-
trally thinned base; 5 – double canted sidescraper; 6 – Mousterian point/fragment of Mousterian point-endscraper;
7–8 – simple sidescraper; 9 – canted sidescraper; 10 – double convergent sidescraper (limace)
tools demonstrates the coherent character of
Middle and Upper Paleolithic attributes in the as-
semblage under discussion.
Retouched and used (i.e., with retouch of
utilization) bladelets comprise several dozen
pieces. There are rather atypical inversely re-
touched lamelles (Fig. 7c–i) and Krems-like
points (Fig. 7a–b), micro-truncations, and a series
of morphologically indeterminate pieces with
light, often partial, edge retouch. The major por-
tion of these artifacts represents the products of
slightly elongated micro-flakes appearing in the
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 33
1
23
45
67
8910
11 12
13
Fig. 5. Mira layer I flint (1–12) and quartzite sandstone (13) artifacts: 1–3, 9, 11, 12 – bilaterally retouched end-
scrapers on blades and bladey flakes; 4–6 – Mousterian point-endscraper on flakes; 7 – micro-Mousterian point-
endscraper; 8 – endscraper on blade; 10 – piéce esquille; 13 – dihedral multifacetted burin
course of reshaping and rejuvenation of flakes and
more rarely of bifacial tools. They have rather
short proportions and occasionally a twisted pro-
file. Dufour-like bladelets at Mira are rather atypi-
cal and they are not consistent with respect to the
morphology of the used blanks or the method of
edge retouching. Some of them are similar to the
Dufour bladelet subtype, while others resemble
more closely the Roc de Combe subtype (Demars
and Laurent, 1989). There is no need to suppose
the reduction of core-like pieces to explain the
origin of these artifacts. The analysis of the chips
resulting from retouch, accumulated in Mira layer
I, demonstrates the presence of more than four
hundred atypical bladelets, of which 149 are
straight in profile, 136 are slightly curved, 73 are
curved, and 72 are twisted (Fig. 7j–l). Worth not-
ing is the presence of regular retouched bladelets.
The next highly unique feature of the Mira
layer I assemblage is the presence of a large series
of micro-flakes with blunted transverse edges,
either intentionally retouched or due to use-wear
resulting in retouch. These artifacts, provisionally
named as “non-geometrical” microliths of Mira
type, number ca. 140 pieces and represent mostly
short trapeze-like chips (Fig. 7:16–7:31). Some-
times the retouched edge is along the striking axis
or obliquely to the striking platform. Retouch on
the two-edges is rare. Some specimens bear what
seems to have been the result of use-wear damage
(Fig. 7:17, 7:19, 7:26, 7:28) frequently associated
with the ventral surface of the edge opposed to the
retouched one. The blanks of these artifacts are
the rejuvenation or resharpening flakes of uni-or
bifacial tools. Hence, they are very small in size
and their dimensions hardly exceed 20 mm in
length or width. To our knowledge these artifacts
are not known from other European Paleolithic
assemblages of comparable and more recent age.
We suggest that Mira type non-geometrical mi-
34 V. N. Stepanchuk
Fig. 6. Mira layer I flint artifacts: 1 – point on fragment of plano-convex biface; 2 – bifacial leafpoint; 3 – plano-
convex bifacial point with back or backed knife; 4 – bifacial leafpoint-like form, exhausted through knapping
croliths represent, although morphologically not
compatible, a similar idea to the use of micro-
components in the late Aurignacian assemblages
of eastern European. Employing tiny waste blanks
and retouching them in order to have a secondary
worked edge is the common concept between
Mira I and the other assemblages.
The appearance of the original micro-compo-
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 35
2345 6
789
10 11 12
1
13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31
Fig. 7. Mira layer I flint artifacts: 1–2 – Krems-Dufour point; 3–9 – Dufour bladelets; 10–12 – bladelets; 13–14 –
micro-points on bladelets; 15 – micro-point on waste flake of reshaping of tip of bifacial pointed tool; 16–26,
27–29, 31 – non-geometrical microliths of Mira type on waste flakes of resharpening and reshaping of flake tools;
30 – non-geometrical microlith of Mira type on waste flake of resharpening and reshaping of bifacial tool
nent of Mira layer I, as well as the Aurignacian-
like bladelet, have to be understood as an inde-
pendent innovation under the circumstances of a
scarcity of raw materials. On the other hand, it
cannot be excluded that there was either direct or
indirect impact by the Aurignacian on the local
groups, which resulted in imitation of the use of
micro implements. In any case, the currently
available data are not sufficient for resolving this
question.
From the perspective of both typology and
technology the Mira layer I industry demonstrates
the coherent presence of Middle and Upper Paleo-
lithic features. It seems originally to have been
oriented toward the manufacture of blade/large
blade and bifacial blanks that have undergone a
substantial secondary transformation. An ex-
tremely high rate of additional transformation of
the lithic artifacts is probably due to mass frag-
mentation, knapping and re-shaping of curated
lithic artifacts.
BONE AND ANTLER IMPLEMENTS
Bone and antler artifacts were found only in
layer I. The assemblage consists of numerous
complete and fragmented retouchers, several
fragments of points (?) and two polishers.
There are many (up to 30) retouchers mostly
made on the diaphyses of the long bones of ungu-
lates. These tools are similar to those known else-
where, especially in the context of bifacial Middle
Paleolithic industries. Both polishers are com-
plete, one of them is prepared on fragment of long
bone and demonstrates traces of intentional shap-
ing through scraping.
The assemblage contains two fragments of
tips of points (awls?) with flattened cross-section.
Both fragments are small-sized (34 × 12×5and
14×8×5mm)andoneofthem was formed on
deer antler (Fig. 8a). There is a possibly mid-
portion of a needle (7×2×2mm), thoroughly
rounded in cross-section (Fig. 8b). Finally, a shaft
of an antler (?) with an artificial hollow contain-
ing a broken flint tool completes the collection.
BONE, TOOTH, AND AMBER
ORNAMENTS
These objects were uncovered only in Mira
layer I. There is a series of ten complete and
fragmented perforated fox and polar fox teeth
36 V. N. Stepanchuk
123
45
6
789
Fig. 8. Mira layer I bone (2–5, 9), tooth (7–8), antler (?) (1) and amber (6) artifacts: 1 – tip of flat point; 2 – me-
dial part of needle (?); 3, 9 – fragments of bones with parallel engraved lines, only clearly recognized lines were
drawn; 4 – fragment of pierced pendant/needle eye; 5 – articular bone with serial parallel disposed engraved lines,
only clearly recognized lines were drawn; 6 – fragment of probable pierced amber pendant; 7–8 – pierced carnivore
teeth
(Fig. 8g–h). Holes have been perforated in the
roots of the teeth. One example exhibits an unsuc-
cessful start, amended with the next attempt of
perforating. The assemblage also includes a tiny
fragment of either a bone pendant or a needle eye.
There are two tiny fragments of long (?) bones
and one articular bone with a series of parallel en-
graved lines (fig. 8c, e, i).
Mira layer I contains several fragments of
amber, two of which belong to the same artifact
with a seemingly artificial hole and may represent
an amber pendant (Fig. 8f).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
The combination of Middle and Upper Paleo-
lithic attributes in the materials of Mira layer I is
directly related to the well-known debate con-
cerning of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transi-
tion in eastern Europe. Layer I industry cannot be
assigned to a genuine chronologically initial Up-
per Paleolithic, although there are grounds to con-
sider it as a “transitional” one.
The problem of the Middle to Upper Paleo-
lithic transition is associated with the replacement
of Neanderthals by physically modern people, a
subject that remains highly controversial in the
Stone Age archaeology of Europe. It is actually a
problem of the “pre-Aurignacian” Upper Paleo-
lithic, which is extremely variable and exhibits no
links with the preceding Middle Paleolithic and
has no continuation in the subsequent Upper Pa-
leolithic records. In eastern Europe industries
such as Kostenki 12: IV, V, Kostenki 14: IVb and
Kostenki 17: II in the Don basin are all dated to
ca. 40–42 ky BP (Anikovich et al., 2004; Sinitsyn
et al., 2004) and, probably, the 38–39 ky BP site
of Sokirnitsa in the Ukrainian Transcarpathians
(Usik et al., 2004). Sometimes the term “initial
Upper Paleolithic” is proposed for these east
European industries (Hoffecker et al., 2003).
Nevertheless, it must be stressed that all of the
chronologically early Upper Paleolithic show no
signs of evolution from Middle Paleolithic back-
ground. In this sense their “IUP” position is justi-
fied only by the range of their early age.
The traditional European Early Upper Paleo-
lithic represented by Aurignacian and local
transitional industries like the Castelperronian,
Uluzzian, Szeletian, Bohunician are easily
recognizable in eastern Europe. During the period
between 36–28 ky BP Aurignacian occupations
are known in the Don area (Kostenki 14, “horizon
of volcanic ash”; Kostenki I: III), in Crimea (Siu-
ren I), in Prut-Dniester interfluve (Sinitsyn, 2002;
Demidenko et al., 1998; Haesaerts et al., 2003).
Archaic or, in other terms “transitional” UP in-
dustries are known in the Don basin (Stre-
letskayan in Kostenki 12: III and 1a, Kostenki I:
V, Kostenki 6; Gorodtsovian in Kostenki 14: 2,
Kostenki 12: 1; Kostenki 15; Kostenki 16), west-
ern Ukraine (Kulychivka), in Middle Dnieper
(Mira: I), and in the Crimea (Buran-Kaya III: C)
(Rogachev and Anikovich, 1984; Anikovich,
1999, 2004; Meignen et al., 2000; Stepanchuk
and Cohen, 2000–2001; Stepanchuk et al., 2004a;
Marks, 1998; Marks and Monigal, 2000a). The fi-
nal stage of the period is marked by the appear-
ance of Gravettian occupations at Kostenki 8: II
(Don area), Mira: II/2 (Middle Dnieper), Molo-
dova and Mitoc-Malul-Galben (Prut-Dniester)
(Praslov and Rogachev, 1982; Stepanchuk et al.,
2004a; Chernysh, 1987; Goretski and Ivanova,
1982; Ivanova and Tseitlin, 1987; Haesaerts et al.,
2003). With the rise of the Gravettian at the end of
early stage of the Upper Paleolithic and the fur-
ther transformations of the Upper Paleolithic, this
set of complex culture is known across Europe
(Djindjian et al., 1999; Amirkanov, 1998; Koz-
lowski, 1986).
Chronologically, and sometimes spatially, the
Early Upper Paleolithic of eastern Europe is con-
temporary with the late Middle Paleolithic of the
region (Sinitsyn and Praslov, 1997; Cohen and
Stepanchuk, 1999; Chabai et al., 1998). The most
convincing and reliable data on the late chrono-
logical position of the regional Middle Paleolithic
is reported for the Crimea (Chabai, 2004). To
date, approximately 30 occupation episodes have
radiocarbon determinations younger than 40 ky
BP, of which eight postdate 30 ky BP (Stepan-
chuk et al., 2004b). Both the Middle Paleolithic
Micoquian (Zaskalnaya VI, Zaskalnaya V,
Prolom I, Prolom II, Buran-Kaya III, etc.), and the
typical Mousterian (Alioshin Grot, Kabazi II,
Shaitan-Koba II, etc.) occupy the same chrono-
logical position. The temporal contemporaneity
of the Upper and the Middle Paleolithic industries
of the Crimean peninsula is supported by the
superposition of corresponding occupations
The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 37
within a single sequence such as the archaic Up-
per Paleolithic of Buran-Kaya III: C that overlies
the Middle Paleoolithic of Buran-Kaya: B1
(Marks and Monigal, 2000a, 2000b). The chrono-
logical position of the Middle Paleolithic occupa-
tions outside of Crimea is known in less detail.
Nevertheless, there are both geochronometrically
(Zhornov, western Ukraine) and geologically
(Belokuzminovka, Donetsk area, eastern Ukra-
ine) argued final – postdated to 30 ky BP – ages of
some Middle Paleolithic sites in the continental
Ukraine (Piasetski, 1992; Kolesnik, 2003). At
present, the dates of the latest MP in the basins of
the Dniester (Molodova I, V, Korman, Ripiceni-
Izvor) and the Don (Biriucha Balka) are at the
range of 40 ky BP and even earlier (Paunescu,
1993; Chernysh, 1987; Matiukhin, 2004). This is
while in the northern Caucasus the records sug-
gest the existence of Middle Paleolithic popula-
tion until ca. 35–34 ky BP (in Barakaievskaia,
Monasheskaia and Mezmaiskaia (Liubin and Be-
liava, personal communication; Golovanova et
al., 1999).
Therefore, the eastern European records
roughly between, 45 and 28 ky BP exhibit a com-
plex picture of coexisting Middle and Upper Pa-
leolithic industries. The first Upper Paleolithic
records predating 38–40 ky BP provide no signs
of either interrelation with local Middle Paleo-
lithic nor in situ development from a Mousterian
background. More complex and ambiguous is the
mosaic of simultaneous development of true Up-
per Paleolithic (Aurignacian and early Gravettian)
and archaic Upper Paleolithic (industries com-
bined MP and UP techno-typological and behav-
ioral features such as Streletskaya, Gorodtso-
vskaya, etc.). The inherent character of the
Middle Paleolithic complex in eastern European
with industries dated between 36–28 ky BP calls
for probably a symbiotic relationship between the
local MP traditions and the newer UP industries.
The late age of the local Middle Paleolithic occu-
pations suggest the probability of contacts be-
tween Neanderthals and physically modern
humans. The appearance of the first Gravettian
occupations ca. 28–30 ky BP marks the end of
Early Upper Paleolithic and the rise of the first
pan-European civilization.
The period of Middle to Upper Paleolithic
transition in eastern Europe appears with no signs
of unilinear gradual and predictable development.
Instead, there is a complex picture of co-existence
of Late Middle, Early Upper and archaic indus-
tries whose chronological correlation, interac-
tions, and liaisons are still poorly understood.
To date, the site of Mira represents a unique
instance of well-documented archaeological rec-
ords recovered in continental Ukraine and directly
related to the final stage of the long period of co-
existence of Middle and various kinds of Upper
Paleolithic cultures in eastern Europe. The large
and reliable body of data from the Mira site pro-
vides the potential for reviewing in detail many
aspects of cultural and behavioral mutations from
the perspective of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic
transition in eastern Europe. These kinds of data
are still under study but the most important points
should be stressed as follows: the geological, fau-
nal and absolute chronology unanimously posi-
tion both the Paleolithic occupations of Mira
within the interstadial of the Middle Pleniglacial.
Occupations are associated with the Denekamp-
Late Vitachiv-Bryansk buried soil and aged to
about 28 ky BP. The taphonomic characteristics
and the richness of the cultural remains make
Mira an ideal locus for a case study. The site pro-
vides a clear example in layer II/2 of the superpo-
sition of the technologically and typologically
more advanced industry of definite Upper Paleo-
lithic appearance than the more archaic assem-
blage of layer I industry where both Middle and
Upper Paleolithic features are present. The Mira
layer I assemblage yields a combination of traits
of the Crimean Middle Paleolithic Micoquian
(Kolosov et al., 1993) and the Upper Paleolithic
“Aurignacian” technical method with the Gorodt-
sovian EUP of the river Don area (Synitsyn, 1996,
2000). The lack of any other Aurignacian lithic
technological features except for the rather atypi-
cal micro-components (and probably blades) and
the presence of highly original non-geometrical
microliths raises the potential for understanding
the probable independent invention of micro-
backed implements.
The evidence from Mira layer I hints at the
association of the eastern European Szeletoide
sensu lato or post-Micoquian industries with
Homo sapiens sapiens. Despite the quite
developed Middle Paleolithic components, the
evidence from Mira layer I displays fully Upper
38 V. N. Stepanchuk
Paleolithic behavior, including the personal
adornments, advanced bone technology, dwelling
structures, and evidence of extremely long dis-
tance migration.
Although quantitatively limited, the Mira
layer II/2 assemblage provides sharply different
technology and typology. Broad analogies may be
seen in the early Gravettian of central and eastern
Europe, although the closest morphological
analogies are provided by the south Italian Aurig-
nacian site of Paglicci.
Being chronologically close to each other, the
occupations of layer I and II/2 clearly mirror the
coexistent occurrences of different traditions,
namely (post) Micoquian, Aurignacian and
Gravettian in the eastern Europe roughly around
30 ky BP. Indeed, problems of the complex east-
ern European transition from the Middle to the
Upper Paleolithic could not be explained exclu-
sively by data from Mira. Nevertheless, the rich-
ness of the site may provide clues to some
important aspects of this issue.
Acknowledgments
The fieldwork at Mira was supported by the Insti-
tute of Archaeology of National Academy Sciences of
Ukraine and Kiev Society of Archaeology and Anthro-
pology. Full-scale excavations at the site of Mira in
2000 were funded by the L. S. B. Leakey Foundation
and conducted in close collaboration with Dr. V. Co-
hen. Stratigraphic, palynological and paleoenviron-
mental studies were conducted by Dr. N. Gerasimenko
and Dr. P. Haesaerts. Dr. F. Damblon examined the
anthracology. Dr. O. Zhuravlev and Dr. P. Puchkov
studied the large and medium-sized fauna. Microtherio-
fauna was examined by Prof. L. Rekovets. Petrographi-
cal study was conducted by Dr. V. Petrougne. Anthro-
pological finds were studied by Prof. C. Turner.
Radiocarbon dates were provided by Dr. N. Kovalyukh
and Dr. J. van der Plicht. I am deeply indebted to all of
my colleagues for fruitful collaboration on the studies
on the site of Mira. I am also grateful to anonymous re-
viewers for their comments that allowed me to improve
this paper.
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The Archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface 41
... These assemblages, individually, are claimed to have no direct analogies in the regional archaeological records of the Upper Palaeolithic (Palma di Cesnola, 2000;Stepanchuk et al., 2004). At the same time, they show striking similarities, particularly with respect to the very distinctive bladelets with blunted backs that are found at both locations (Stepanchuk, 2005(Stepanchuk, , 2013a. To date, the marginal backed PA24A1 type bladelets represent a distinct feature of the Italian UP, and are only identified at Paglicci cave. ...
... The closest East European UP analogies are seen in the Gorodtsovian assemblages, which are known for their archaic components (Stepanchuk et al., 1998;Anikovich et al., 2007Anikovich et al., , 2008Sinitsyn, 2010). The lowermost assemblage of the 2d horizon of layer II, which is completely UP in its technological and morphological characteristics, has no regional analogies (Stepanchuk et al., 2004;Stepanchuk, 2005Stepanchuk, , 2013a. Layer II horizon 1, which occupies an intermediate position, contains only a few small fragments of bones and flint artefacts that may have migrated down from layer I via bioturbation. ...
... The type of retouch depends on the thickness of the processed area. The assemblage contains artefacts that feature signs of the soft hammer knapping technique (Stepanchuk, 2005). ...
Article
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The aim of this paper is to present the evidence for, and to discuss the aspects of the striking similarities that have been identified between backed bladelets recovered in two geographically distant assemblages, one found in Southern Italy (Paglicci, layer 24 horizon A1) and the other in Eastern Europe (Mira, layer II horizon 2). Both assemblages are dated to around 29–28000 BP and are taxonomically defined as Early Upper Palaeolithic. Detailed comparison of technical and morphological data is impossible because the Eastern European site does not contain an assemblage that lends itself to statistical analysis. The backed bladelets of type PA24A1, found in Paglicci, layer 24 horizon A1-0, and Mira, layer II horizon 2, have no direct analogies in chronologically close Aurignacian and Gravettian sites, in either Southern or Eastern Europe. Taking into account the similar chronological position of the sites, separated by a distance of ca. 2,500 km, it is concluded that the significant similarity of the backed bladelets is most likely explained not by the convergence of development or by trade, but by the direct migration of a group of modern humans who manufactured such specific microliths. The Paglicci (24A 1) and Mira (II/2) industries generally belong to the Early Upper Palaeolithic, being placed chronologically at the transition between the EUP and MUP, being located morphologically and technologically between the Aurignacian and Gravettian. Despite the scarcity of data, the distinctiveness of the backed implements indicates that the sites belong to the same episode of sociocultural development. The issue of the cultural affiliation of the industry with PA24A1 type bladelets remains unanswered, and the search for analogies, either in Eastern or Southern Europe, needs to be continued.
... Lithic assemblage of Mira, layer I enumerates ca. 54,000 artefacts, out of which almost 97% are tiny micro-flakes representing by-products of rejuvenation of flake and bifacial tools Stepanchuk, 2005Stepanchuk, , 2013. Among tools, there are points, sidescrapers, endscrapers, various combinations of end scraper and side scraper, point, burins, pointed blades, ''piè ces esquillé es'', retouched flakes, blades and bladelets. ...
... There are rather atypical Krems/Font-Yves points, two varieties of Dufour bladelets, complemented by micro-points on bladelets, micro-truncations, and morphologically distinct non-geometric microliths of Mira type. Layer I lithic industry can be regarded as homogenous and containing no admixtures, though at the same time it is multi-component and finding parallels in local late MP (Micoquian, Szeletian) and early UP (Szeletian, Aurignacian, Gorodtsovskaya) records (Stepanchuk, 2005(Stepanchuk, , 2013. The occupation of layer II/2 provides about 200 knapped flints. ...
... The occupation of layer II/2 provides about 200 knapped flints. The morpho-technological features make it possible to consider the industry as a fully Upper Palaeolithic and, in the most preliminary terms, to classify it as an Early Gravettian industry (Stepanchuk, 2005(Stepanchuk, , 2013. ...
Article
Situated in Dnieper valley, in the central part of continental Ukraine, the site of Mira yields two well-preserved Palaeolithic occupation levels, possessing features of true living floors. The uppermost layer I, presenting remains of autumn-winter seasonal occupation, is dated to between 32,000 and 31,000 cal BP. Layer I contains EUP assemblage combining the technological and morphological features of local Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. Layer I includes many various objects, like pits, postholes, hearths, bone and ashes accumulations etc. Remains of sub-circular surface-dwelling construction with an area of about 14.5 m² were recognised in the uppermost layer due to numerous postholes and specific characteristics of the living floor. Micro-stratigraphic and spatial features recognise two distinct construction elements, namely the external irregular spherical contour and the inscribed slightly asymmetrical rectangular contour. An entrance, associated with four ashy lenses of likely smoke hearths, was recognised oriented east-wards toward a current river channel. This outer, close to the entrance, zone of construction contains numerous flints, in particular, flint tools, thousands tiny debris and waste-flakes of tool resharpening and reshaping, as well as bone ornaments and ornamented bone pieces, and also a fragment of a human molar. On the contrary, the practically free lithics though containing plenty of burned organic material, the back part of the construction, likely separated from the outer zone by a special partition, was seemingly served as a sleeping zone. It is possible to conclude about the recovery of remains of permanent carcass surface cylindrical dwelling that found analogies in ethnographical records. Keeping in mind the age and geographical position, we deal with the earliest instance of complicate surface-dwelling construction currently known in the steppe area of the East European plain.
... The carcass-processing areas at Kostenki 14 and 15 suggested that the killing of herds or mare bands might have been an important method of procurement with some analogue to the hunting of bison herds (which yield a similar taphonomic signal) on the North American Plains (e.g., Frison, 1991). At least one other EUP site on the central East European Plain contains evidence of a mare band kill (Stepanchuk, 2005a;Hoffecker et al., 2014) and two major EUP sites in Western Europe also yield evidence for hunting horses in groups, indicating that the pattern was widespread during the EUP (e.g., Olsen, 1989;Niven, 2007). ...
... Mira occupies the second terrace and former high floodplain of the Dnepr River roughly 15 km south of Zaporozhye. V. N. Stepanchuk (2005aStepanchuk ( , 2013) excavated a total of 70 m 2 of the site during 1997-2009 and undertook additional field research in 2012 (Hoffecker et al., 2014). The artifacts, features, and faunal remains at Mira are buried in fine sandy clay that represents a low-energy floodplain deposit; it exhibits traces of weak soil formation under cool climate conditions (Stepanchuk et al., 2013, pp. ...
Article
Full-text available
The archaeological record of the early Upper Paleolithic on the central plain of Eastern Europe yields evidence for the repeated hunting of horses in small herds. Several major sites contain large bone beds that represent the butchered remains of a mare band. The bone beds are consistently associated with expedient tools, often made on local raw materials, that are typical of mass kill sites and carcass-processing areas in other settings (for example, North American Plains). Many of these sites may have been occupied by people related to the Aurignacian technocomplex, which otherwise is poorly represented on the central East European Plain, their industrial affiliation obscured by the profusion of expedient tools (often classified as Middle Paleolithic types) related to mass-processing of horse carcasses.
... It is believed that the material and patterns identified to allow for the assertion that excavations between 1997 and 2013 have partially uncovered the peripheral and central parts of a relatively long-term seasonal occupation (Stepanchuk 2005;Stepanchuk et al. 2004;Hoffecker et al. 2014). ...
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The collection of scientific works is dedicated to the eightieth anniversary of Prof. Mykhailo I. Gladkikh, a well-known Ukrainian archaeologist, prehistorian, teacher and world-class scientist. The issue of the collection is related to the field of scientific research of the jubilee – the interaction of human and the environment in prehistory. The articles are devoted to modern research and interpretations of living space in the prehistoric cultures of Europe, as a system of human adaptation to changing natural conditions. The proposed collection will be useful for anyone interested in the prehistory, archaeology and paleoecology of Europe – archaeologists, prehistorians, paleogeographers, local historians, museum workers, cultural heritage researchers, and students of higher education.
... It is believed that the material and patterns iden tified to allow for the assertion that excavations be tween 1997 and 2013 have partially uncovered the peripheral and central parts of a relatively longterm seasonal occupation (Stepanchuk 2005;Ste panchuk et al. 2004;Hoffecker et al. 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this article is to present data on the surface structure identified in the upper layer of the Mira site in the Dnieper valley. The occupation of layer I, based on a set of consistent data, constitutes the remains of a seasonal winter camp of Pleistocene horse hunters. Ten available radiocarbon dates place the calibrated age of layer I between 31,000 to 28,000 cal BP. The rapid albeit gentle overlapping of the settlement remains with alluvial sediments ensured that the original settlement and dwelling patterns and their elements survived well. Thanks to this, it is possible to reconstruct some significant aspects of the construction process, as well as details of the arrangement of the dwelling’s interior space. A 30,000-year-old, permanent skeleton cylindrical yaranga type surface construction from Mira layer I is currently representing the oldest dwelling known in the Upper Palaeolithic of Ukraine and a broader context of the steppe zone of the East European plain.
... Предварительные результаты полевых и лабораторных исследований частично опубликованы Коен, Степан чук 2000;Степанчук 2003;Степанчук та ін. 2004;Stepanchuk 2005 и др.), а частично находятся в печати. ...
Book
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Mira: Early Upper Paleolithic Site in the Dnieper Valley The monograph is devoted to the materials of Mira, a highly informative multilayered Early Upper Paleolithic site in the Sub-Rapids area of the Dnieper river. The site is characterized by a good preservation of both stone and organic objects. Chapter І contains natural science data about the geomorphological situation in the site area, gives an account of the history of archaeological explorations at Mira, and describes the methodology of excavation. Chapter ІІ deals with the site stratigraphy as well as paleoclimatic and paleolandscape evidence. Chapter ІІІ presents a detailed analysis of the site taphonomy, leading to the conclusion that both cultural layers dated to 28—27 ky BP are homogenous. Chapter ІV provides a description of the spatial structure of the studied cultural layers, with primary attention given to the object distribution patterns and the remains of a dwelling construction. Chapter V analyses in detail the faunal series, and contains an attempt to reconstruct the econiche characteristics, season, and duration of habitation. In particular, it is concluded that layer I of Mira represents the remains of a seasonal (probably fall-winter) camp of hunters, whose main prey were wild horses. Chapter VI is devoted to the analysis of lithic and bone industry of the site. The closest analogy to Mira, layer I can be seen in the archaic EUP of the Kostenki area, especially in the Gorodtsovskaya industry. The bifacial technology of layer I of Mira and the morphology of bifacial tools demonstrate analogies with some regional Middle Paleolithic industries with bifacial points. Layer II/2 Mira finds good analogies in the Aurignacian of the Apennine peninsula. Chapter VI summarizes the evidence provided by the site, defines the position of Mira among the East European sites dating to the period of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition, and reconsiders some problems associated with the study of this period in the light of new data.
... ), and more recently in south-central Ukraine at Vis'(Zaliznyak and Belenko 2011). The Gorodtsovan has been recognized in the upper layer at Mira on the Lower Dnepr River(Anikovich et al. 2007: 203-206;Hoffecker et al. 2018;Stepanchuk 2005).Some researchers have placed both the local and non-local culture-stratigraphic units within larger industrial entities (i.e., "techno-complexes" or технокомплексы) that are widely distributed in northern Eurasia, such as the Aurignacoid Technocomplex and the Gravettoid Technocomplex(Anikovich et al. 2008: 69-71).Anikovich et al. (2008: 87-132) placed the Strelets Culture (early and late phases) within the Szeletoid Technocomplex, also found in Central Europe, and suggested that the Spitsyn Culture could be assigned to the Aurignacoid Technocomplex. Based on the high percentage of Middle Paleolithic tool types,Anikovich et al. (2008: 71) proposed that the Gorodtsov Culture be assigned to the "Afontova Technocomplex," defined with reference to Upper Paleolithic sites in Siberia.Kostenki 12 is unique among the Kostenki-Borschevo sites with respect to culturestratigraphy because it contains all four of the local culture-stratigraphic units identified in the humic beds (i.e., the early Upper Paleolithic). ...
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Over the course of seven decades, field and laboratory investigations at the open-air site of Kostenki 12 (Костёнки 12) on the central East European Plain have revealed an increasingly clear picture of site formation processes and occupation history during 45,000–30,000 cal BP (early Upper Paleolithic [EUP]). Here, we review the interpretation of culture-stratigraphy at Kostenki 12 in the context of the formation and occupation history of the site, and we draw parallels between the EUP of the East European Plain and prehistoric sites on the High Plains of North America. Kostenki 12 is located at the mouth of a large side-valley ravine on the west bank of the Don River, near an active spring. During EUP times, it was situated on the distal floodplain of the river (now the second terrace) and below steep bedrock slopes at the confluence of the ravine and main valley. Traces of human occupation are buried in a complex interplay of alluvial and slope deposits, repeatedly saturated by carbonate seeps, which promoted lush vegetation and in situ soil development. Artifacts and faunal remains often were disturbed or transported downslope by flowing water on the relatively steep slope (11%). Despite the pattern of recurring post-depositional disturbance, the EUP occupations yield evidence for both the processing of large-mammal carcasses and extended habitation (campsites). The most abundant mammal remains in these occupations are horse (Equus latipes), and taphonomic and paleodemographic data indicate that they primarily represent small herds (probably marebands) killed en masse (в целом) at or near the site. Kostenki 12 exhibits parallels with many open-air sites and site-complexes on the High Plains of North America, where (a) large mammals were ambushed at springs/wetlands or stampeded down steep slopes into a natural or artificial trap, and (b) camp sites were established near the kill locations and carcass-processing areas. When our conclusions about site history are factored into the interpretation of the EUP culture-stratigraphy, the long perceived cultural variability at Kostenki 12 (where at least four EUP culture-stratigraphic units are thought to be represented) is more parsimoniously explained in terms of different activities (carcass processing areas versus campsites), which exhibit characteristic archaeological signatures on both the East European Plain and the High Plains of North America. The most significant axis of cultural variability is temporal (before versus after the Campanian Ignimbrite ashfall and HE4 cold interval [40,000–38,000 cal BP]) and is supported by paleogenomic data, which indicate a replacement of the human population of the central East European Plain after 38,000 cal BP.
Article
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The East European Plain (EEP), which is the dominant landform on the continent of Europe, exhibits many parallels to the High Plains of North America with respect to landscape and biota. These parallels are reflected in the early prehistoric archaeological record of both regions and a “North American Plains (NAP) perspective” is applied here to the early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) between ~45 000 and ~30 000 cal BP of the EEP. As among First Peoples on the NAP, EUP groups on the EEP used the distribution of springs and the topography of an arid, open landscape to hunt large mammals individually and in small herds (especially horse and reindeer). Many sites contain features (e. g., carcass processing areas) analogous to those in archaeological sites on the NAP. EUP culture-stratigraphy for the EEP is reinterpreted from a “NAP perspective.”
Article
An attempt to analyze briefly chronological, territorial and cultural analogies for the lower (IV and III) cultural horizons of multilayered site Kulychivka in Kremenets, Ternopil region is made at the article. Attention is focused on the sites of period of transition from Middle to Upper Paleolithic (further MP-UP transition), which are close to materials of Kulychivka in technical, topological or territorial-chronological aspects. Synchronous industries from the adjacent regions are considered: Dnister River basin, Volhynia, Podillya, Trans-Carpathians, as well as more distant territories – Dnipro River basin, Donbas, Crimean peninsula, Kostyonky-Borshchiv Paleolithic centers. However, the closest analogy for materials from lower layers of Kulychivka is seen by the authors in sites of Bohunice industry (Czech Republic), or more widely, in Emiran–Bohunice complex, spread from Near East to Siberia and Northern China. Not only the common features in the technique of producing of tools, but also planigraphic features of location and proximity to sources of high-quality raw materials (Volhynian flint in the case of Kulychivka) are united those sites. Existing technical and typological interpretations of the lower layers of the site, made by V. Savych, V. Stepanchuk and V. Kohen, M. Anikovich, L. Meignan, J.-M. Geneste, L. Kulakovska and O. Sytnyk are also analysed at the article. Considering the genesis of Paleolithic settlements in Kulychivka during MP-UP transition, the authors support hypothesis of migration link with Central European region, although further investigation is needed to clarify the direction and nature of this connection. There are also some features of industry of the site (presence of atypical or defective products, quantitative predominance of production refuse over the final product, the long-term preservation of “archaic” elements in collections), which could be influenced by availability of close situated and easily accessible sources of stone raw materials. These features also allow considering Paleolithic cultural layers of Kulychivka as remains of prehistoric workshop, probably of multiphase, seasonal settlement. Key words: Kulychivka, Early Upper Paleolithic, transition from Middle to Upper Paleolithic, flint artifacts, Bohunice.
Article
Full-text available
The artefact assemblages from early Upper Palaeolithic sites in eastern European Russia contain flint tools of more Middle Palaeolithic type. With these artefacts are bifacially thinned triangular forms that may represent the first use of this technology in the area, and perhaps anywhere in Europe.
Technological Analysis of Stone Industries AkademPrint Cer-tain Technological Criteria of Periodization of Stone Age Mez-maiskaya Cave: A Neanderthal Occupation in the Northern Caucasus
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