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Copyright © 2008, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian
Academy of Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45
PALEOENVIRONMENT. THE STONE AGE
Institute of Language, Literature and History, Komi Science Center, Ural Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences,
Kommunisticheskaya 26, Syktyvkar, 167982, GSP-2, Russia
The article reports on the materials of Paleolithic sites
situated on the territory limited by 58 – 68° N and 50 –
60° E. This region covers the northeastern portion of the
Russian Plain (eastern part of Severnaya Dvina basin
(Vychegda River) and Mezen (the Southern Timan),
the Pechora and the upper Kama basins) and western
foothills of the Ural Mountains (from the northern part of
the Middle Urals to the Polar Urals) (Fig. 1). Signi cant
longitudinal extension and variability of the relief
determined the diversity of natural environments. The
northern part of the region is located in the tundra and
forest-tundra zones; the southern part lies in the boreal
forest (taiga) zone.
The northeastern part of Europe is characterized by
a developed drainage network. The rivers belong to the
Arctic Ocean basin (Pechora, Vychegda, and Mezen) and
to the inland Aral-Caspian basin (Kama). Major water
arteries – the Kama River in the south and the Pechora
River in the north – are among the largest rivers of
In the mid 1950s, the Kama River was dammed in its
upper reaches, and the Kama Reservoir was formed in
the central part of the Perm Territory. The area around the
THE PALEOLITHIC OF NORTHEASTERN EUROPE:
Reservoir is a hilly plain (200 – 300 m asl) dissected by
numerous river valleys and ravines. In the west, it is an
uplifted part of the Russian Plain; foothills and western
ridges of the Ural Mountains constitute its eastern part.
The Pechora River basin is a plain stretching over vast
territories between the Urals and the Timan Range. The
maximum altitudes (over 1500 m a.s.l.) are recorded in the
basin’s eastern periphery, along the Urals ridge.
Paleolithic studies of northeastern Europe have a long
history. The rst Paleolithic sites were discovered in the
region as early as the late 1930s (Talitsky, 1940). Research
continued with a different intensity during the second half
of the last century (see (Bader, 1964; Kanivets, 1976;
Pavlov, 1996)). Due to excavations and surveys carried
out in the early 1990s and in the early 2000s, the database
of Paleolithic records has been considerably enlarged both
in teems of quantity and quality (see (Pavlov, 2002)).
New materials have led to a revision of earlier theories
concerning the evolution of the Paleolithic culture in the
region (O.N. Bader, V.I. Kanivets).
The Middle and Late Pleistocene
paleogeography of the region
Growth and retreat of ice sheets advancing from
Scandinavia and from the shelves of the Barents
and Kara seas produced a significant impact on the
Pleistocene paleogeography of northeastern Europea and
had an in uence on the process of human colonization
of the northern latitudes. During the Early and Middle
Pleistocene glacial maxima, the greater part of the
*This research was supported by the Presidium of the
Russian Academy of Sciences Program for Basic Research
“Adaptation of Peoples and Cultures to Environmental, Social,
and Technogenic Transformations” (P-21) and the Wenner Gren
Foundation (Project ICRG41: “Colonization of the Northern
World”) (2002 – 2006).
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34 A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45
Russian Plain was covered by huge ice sheets (Velichko
et al., 2003).
Results of recent studies have considerably changed
our understanding of the paleogeography of the northern
part of the region during the last (Valdai) glacial cycle.
The climate of this lengthy period was more variable
than was previously thought. During the Early Valdai
period, large ice sheets formed on the Barents and Kara
sea shelves and then extended to the continent, on the
Pechora lowland (Svendsen et al., 2003). The glacier
blocked the drainage of the northern rivers into the Arctic
Ocean; as a result, ca 90,000 – 80,000 BP, a system of
large ice-dammed lakes formed in northeastern Europe
(Krinner et al., 2004).
During the Middle Valdai (Marine Isotope Stage
(MIS) 3), the European northeast was completely
free of ice sheets (perhaps, only in the Urals, small
mountain glaciers remained) (Svendsen et al., 2003). The
environment of this period was moderately cold. The
Middle Valdai was one of the most favorable periods for
human colonization of the region.
In the Late Valdai (MIS 2), major ice sheets formed
in Scandinavia and on the Barents Sea shelf. The shelf
glacier did not expand to the continent, while the
Scandinavian ice sheet reached the maximum of its
development in the northwestern portion of the Russian
Plain (Svendsen et al., 2003). Two periods are clearly
distinguished within the Late Valdai. The first one
(24,000 – 18,000 BP) coincided with the climatic minimum
of the Pleistocene (Last Glacial Maximum) (Velichko et
al., 2003). Everywhere, in the north and in the south,
deposits of this period are characterized by cryogenic
deformations such as ice wedges and thick soli uction
horizons. Open landscapes of cold dry tundra-steppes
dominated the region. The diversity of plant species was
limited; the vegetation was a discontinuous steppe-tundra
with patches of snow-bed plant communities (Paus,
Svendsen, Mationchkov, 2003). The almost complete
absence of remains of large herbivores dated to this period
(Kosintsev, 2003) also suggests considerable degradation
of the vegetation cover. Thus, environmental conditions
of northeastern Europe during the rst half of the Late
Valdai were extremely unfavorable for people. The second
period (18,000 – 13,000 BP) was characterized by more
moderate climate than that which existed during the
previous period (Spiridonova, 1989).
The fauna of northeastern Europe of the Middle and
the second half of the Late Valdai was represented by
mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, musk ox, bison, horse,
reindeer, brown and cave bear, polar fox, wolf, and hare
Thus, the Middle and Late Pleistocene of northeastern
Europe were marked by several abrupt environmental
changes. Relatively short warm episodes gave way to long
periods of severe climatic conditions. The Middle Valdai
Fig. 1. Locations of Paleolithic sites in northeastern
1 – Pymva-Shor I; 2 – Mamontova Kurya; 3 – Byzovaya;
4 – Medvezhia Peschera; 5 – Ust-Pozhva; 6,7 – Garchi I;
8 – Shirovanovo II; 9 – Gorka; 10 – Ganichata II; 11 – Talitsky
site; 12 – Peschernyi Log; 13 – Gornaya Talitsa; 14 – Zaozerye;
15 – Elniki II; 16 – Stolbovoy grotto; 17 – Bliznetsov grotto;
18 – Bolshoy Glukhoy grotto.
ɚ – Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites, b – Upper Paleolithic sites.
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A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45 35
and the second half of the Late Valdai
provided the most favorable conditions
for human colonization of northeastern
The Lower and the Middle
The Lower Paleolithic. The Elniki
II site is located in the upper Kama
basin (58°01′ N, 56°45′ E). Deposits
of the third terrace of the Sylva River
yielded a chopping tool (Fig. 2, 1) and a
ake found in association with bones of
Trogontherium elephant (Archidiskodon
trogontherii Pohl.) (identified by
V.E. Garrut, Zoological Institute RAS,
St. Petersburg). As the stratigraphic and
biostratigraphic data suggest, the site
dates back to the Middle Pleistocene (the
Trogontherium elephant is traditionally
believed to have existed during the rst
half of that stage). The site is possibly one
of the earliest in the Russian Plain.
The Middle Paleolithic. The Garchi I
site is located in the upper Kama basin
(59°04′ N, 56°07′ E.). Artifacts in
strati ed context from the lower layer
of the site are associated with deposits
of the upper part of Mezin soil complex
and, according to Optically Stimulated
Luminescence dating, are ca. 100,000
years old. The main feature of the
assemblage is predominance of bifacial
plano-convex tools, i.e., knives similar to
Kielmesser types (Fig. 2, 2,4,5), déjeté
and convergent sidescrapers (Fig. 2, 8,
11,12), points (Fig. 2, 7), and foliate
bifaces (Fig. 2, 3,6). Their secondary
processing is characterized by intensive
convex-plane retouch, which normally
completely modi es the initial blank.
The less numerous but significant
assemblage of Pescherny Log (58°10′ N,
56° 31′ E), discovered by M.V. Talitsky
in 1939, possesses similar characteristics.
The assemblage contains crescent-shaped partly bifacial
sidescrapers (Fig. 2, 9), points (Fig. 2, 10), small
subtriangular plano-convex bifaces, déjeté and convergent
The lithic assemblages from the Middle Paleolithic
sites of the region are quite similar to one another and
completely conform to the typological features of the
Eastern Micoquian industries.
and the Early Upper Paleolithic
Mamontovaya Kurya is located in the Pechora River
basin (66°34′ N, 62°25′ E). According to a series (7) of
radiocarbon dates, the age of the site is 34,000 – 38,000
years. The site represents the earliest evidence of
human colonization of the Eurasian Arctic (Pavlov et
Fig. 2. Lithic artifacts from Lower and Middle Paleolithic sites
of northeastern Europe.
1 – Elniki II; 2–8,11 –12 – Garchi I (lower layer); 9,10 – Pescherny Log.
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36 A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45
al., 2001). Remains of mammoth dominate the faunal
assemblage; reindeer, horse, and wolf are represented by
single bone specimens. Scarce artifacts were redeposited
and incorporated into alluvial sediments. The small
assemblage comprises ve stone artifacts, including a
biconvex bifacial tool (Fig. 3, 1) and one ornamented
mammoth task. The cultural af liation of the site is
unclear. Chronological analogies can be traced by the
most informative nd – the ornamented mammoth tusk
(Svendsen, Pavlov, 2003). The design is composed of
rows of paired incisions situated at an angle to each
other. Similar ornaments are found in the assemblages
from the earliest European Upper Paleolithic sites
(D’Errico et al., 2003).
The composition of the faunal remains and the
topographic location of Mamontovaya Kurya are typical
of natural accumulations of bones of large mammals –
The Zaozerye site is situated in the upper part of
the Kama River basin (58°09′ N, 56°59′ E). A series of
radiocarbon (AMS) dates were obtained for the cultural
layer: 33,150 ± 410 (Poz-5075); 33,450 ± 420 (Poz-
5076); 33,720 + 310/ – 280 (GrA-28191); 35,140 +
390/ – 310 (GrA-28187) (Pavlov, Roebroeks, Svendsen,
2004; Pavlov, 2004). Horse bones dominate the faunal
assemblage. Remains of hare, rhinoceros, and reindeer
are also present. Traces of three rather small living oors
were uncovered (Pavlov, 2004). The assemblage consists
of approx. 2000 artifacts. Volumetric prismatic cores
characterize the primary knapping technique. Blades and
bladelets are the most numerous products of systematic
Tools fall into two distinct morphological and
technical groups. The rst one is comprised of Upper
Paleolithic categories of tools made on blades and
bladelets: points (Fig. 3, 9,15), burins on a breaks and
truncations (Fig. 3, 10,13), and blades with marginal and
abrupt scalar retouch resembling the Aurignacian variety
(Fig. 3, 11,12). The second group includes tools of the
Middle Paleolithic morphology: small plano-convex
ovoid bifaces (Fig. 3, 2,4), a bifacial backed Kielmesser
knife (Fig. 3, 3), scrapers and endscrapers with ventral
retouch or trimming of the bulb of percussion (Fig. 3,
5–8,14). Bone and antler tools are represented by awls
and an un nished point. Personal ornaments found in
the cultural layer belong to the so-called “archaic group”
(Abramova, Sinitsyn, 2002): oval pendants made from
Unio shells with two drilled holes and rounded beads
with one drilled hole made from fossilized sea lilies
In terms of stone and bone tools and types of
ornaments, Zaozerye resembles Initial and Early Upper
Paleolithic sites of Eastern Europe.
Based on the AMS radiocarbon date of 28,750 ±
± 795 (ТUa-941), the upper layer of Garchi I site
(Pavlov, Indrelid, 2000) can be attributed to the Early
Upper Paleolithic (Pavlov, Makarov, 1998). Faunal
remains are dominated by horse and include reindeer
and mammoth bones. Two rather extensive living oors
were uncovered (Pavlov, Makarov, 1998). The stone
assemblage consists of approximately 6000 artifacts.
The primary knapping technique is represented by at
cores. Notably, a speci c primary knapping technique –
counter-strike knapping of small flint pebbles – is
represented in the assemblage. The tool kit of the site
is poor. More than half of tools are bifacial triangular
projectiles and endscrapers. The projectiles are typical
Kostenki-Streletskaya points with concave bases
(Fig. 3, 16 –18). Most endscrapers were made on short
triangular akes with ventral trimming (Fig. 3, 19,21,
24,26). The assemblage comprises few endscrapers
with a spur on the working edge, carinated endscrapers
(Fig. 3, 23, 25), and double endscrapers with marginal
retouch (Fig. 3, 22). Only transverse burins are
typologically de nite; other tools with burin spalls
are amorphous. Chisels with high concave working
edges on elongated blanks, int plates with marginal
bifacial retouch, and an elongated point (?) are also
represented in the assemblage. Mousterian forms are
less numerous. They are represented by straight and
convex sidescrapers with plano-convex retouch along
the working edge (Fig. 3, 20).
The site is attributable to the Kostenki-Streletskaya
culture representing the Early Upper Paleolithic of
Eastern Europe. The main features of the site assemblage
and cultural layer suggest that the site was a repeatedly
visited hunting camp with a complete cycle of stone tool
Byzovaya is one of the northernmost Upper Paleolithic
sites in Europe. It is situated in the middle stream of the
Pechora River, (65°01′ N; 57°25′ E) (Kanivets, 1976). The
age of the site, estimated by a large series of radiocarbon
dates (24), is ca 29,000 BP (Pavlov, 2002). The faunal
assemblage is characterized by a dominance of mammoth
(97.7%). Bones of other animals (reindeer, horse, wolf,
brown bear, musk ox) are rare. Lithic artifacts number
278. The primary knapping technique is represented by
volumetric (Fig. 3, 34) and at Levallois cores.
Tools can be classi ed into two morphologically
and technically distinct groups – Middle and Upper
Paleolithic. The rst one is represented by plano-convex
bifaces including Kielmesser knives (Fig. 3, 27,28,
32) and various sidescrapers (Fig. 3, 29); the second
group comprises endscrapers on akes and elongated
blanks (Fig. 3, 35,37, 39, 41), carinated and pointed
endscrapers (grattoir ogival) (Fig. 3, 36,38,), splintered
pieces (Fig. 3, 40), points (Fig. 3, 33), and thin bifacial
foliates (Fig. 3, 30,31). Several artifacts made of
reindeer antler, including a Lingby-type mattock, were
found on the site.
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A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45 37
Fig. 3. Lithic artifacts from Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic sites of northeastern Europe.
1 – Mamontova Kurya; 2–15 – Zaozerye; 16 –26 – Garchi I (upper layer); 27 –41 – Byzovaya.
910 11 12 13 14 15
21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30
36 37 38 39 40 41
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In the basic structure of the lithic assemblage,
combining Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic features,
Byzovaya resembles Zaozerye, which is earlier, and
in certain types of stone and bone tools it is close to
Garchi I, which is contemporaneous. Certain features
of the stone inventory, faunal remains as well as
topographic location of the site make it possible to
interpret the site as a temporary camp at a natural
Bliznetsov grotto perhaps also relates to the Early
Upper Paleolithic (Sherbakova, 2001). The site assemblage
(approx. 300 items) is characterized by the dominant
volumetric splitting technique. The tool kit comprises
carinated endscrapers on thick akes and endscrapers
on blades. The cultural af liation of the site is unclear
The Late and the Final Upper Paleolithic
The Late Upper Paleolithic. Five sites dating from
19,000 – 16,000 BP and attributable to this period are
presently known in northeastern Europe (Talitsky,
Ganichata II, Shirovanovo II, Medvezhia Peschera, and
Bolshoy Glukhoy grotto) (Pavlov, 1996; Sherbakova
1994; Makarov, 2002). Assemblages of these sites show
considerable similarity. After the discovery of the Initial
Early Upper Paleolithic sites, which are quite distinct from
the Late Paleolithic ones in this region, the peculiarities of
the former group became more evident. They include the
The raw materials mostly used were alluvial gravels.
The primary knapping technique was based on volumetric
and at reduction. Nuclei are represented by prismatic
(Fig. 4, 1), multidirectional, conical, edge-facetted,
and secondary cores on flakes which were used for
manufacturing blades, bladelets, and microblades.
Trimming of the platform edge of prismatic cores is
quite common. All large assemblages contain at cores
(Fig. 4, 2). Prevailing types of blanks were irregular
blades, bladelets 3 – 5 cm long, and microblades.
For tools production, blades and flakes were used in
equal proportions. The main unusual feature of tool
manufacturing is retouching that resulted in the formation
of spurs and notches.
The tool kit is comprised of endscrapers on elongated
flakes and blades, including carinated forms (Fig. 4,
3–7,9–11); small circular endscrapers on akes (Fig.
4, 8); truncations, angle and transverse burins (Fig. 4,
12 –15); splintered pieces (Fig. 4, 16); backed bladelets
(Fig. 4, 17); blades with marginal retouch (Fig. 4, 18 – 19);
truncated blades (Fig. 4, 20); and spur-like and denticulate
implements (Fig. 4, 21). Pebble tools (choppers and
chopping tools) are always present in the assemblages.
Large unifaces and sidescrapers with straight, convex and
concave working edges are quite common (Fig. 4, 22,23).
The bone inventory is rather poor. The most characteristic
born artifacts are unilateral and bilateral grooved points;
some of them were made of mammoth ivory (Fig. 4, 24).
Some sites yielded sidescrapers made on fragments of
large tubular bones. Personal ornaments are represented
by bone beads and pendants made of river shells. The
collections contain ornamented pieces – bone and slate
plates with engravings forming a rhombic net design. A
unique mammoth gurine made on a int ake was found
at Shirovanovo II.
The Final Upper Paleolithic. This period is
represented by the sites such as Pymva-Shor I, Gornaya
Talitsa, Stolbovoy grotto, layer III of Bolshoy Glukhoy
grotto, Ust-Pozhva, and Gorka (Pavlov, Melnichuk 1987;
Sherbakova, 2001; Makarov, 1997). They date back
to the Final Pleistocene and Early Holocene (11,000 –
9500 (?) BP).
Alluvial gravels were used as raw material sources.
The primary knapping technique was based on volumetric
and at reduction. Cores are mostly represented by single
and double platform prismatic forms (Fig. 4, 25,26);
conical and edge-facetted varieties are also present; at
cores are rare. In the category of products of systematic
knapping, irregular blades are most numerous; bladelets
and microblades are common, and a few blades struck
from flat cores are also present. Tools were mostly
made on blades, though flakes and natural blanks
were also used. The tool kit comprises endscrapers on
blades, circular endscrapers on akes and natural blanks
(Fig. 4, 27 –31), burins (on truncation, on a break, dihedral)
(Fig. 4, 36 –38), spur-like and beaked implements
(Fig. 4, 32,33,44), truncated blades (Fig. 4, 39,40,42,
43,45), backed bladelets and truncated backed bladelets.
oblique points; splintered pieces (Fig. 4, 34), sidescrapers
(Fig. 4, 41), choppers and chopping tools, and waisted
quartzite axes (Fig. 4, 46). Assemblages contain a few
trapezes (Fig. 4, 35) and arrowheads on blades with
ventral retouch. Gornaya Talitsa yielded a sandstone
plate with engravings representing moose heads (Pavlov,
In sum, raw materials, primary knapping techniques,
the structure of the assemblages, and certain types of
artifacts reveal a similarity between Late and Final Upper
Paleolithic sites of northeastern Europe. However, the
Final Paleolithic assemblages display certain differences,
such as the presence of truncated backed bladelets,
trapezes, oblique points, arrowheads on blades with
ventral retouch, and waisted axes.
Late Upper Paleolithic sites with identical features
of the assemblage structure are widespread across the
Urals. They are located on the middle Kama River
as well as on the western and eastern slopes of the
Northern, Middle, and Southern Urals: Drachevo
(Melnichuk, Pavlov, 1985), Bobyliek grotto (Volokitin,
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Fig. 4. Stone and bone artifacts from Late and Final Upper Paleolithic sites of northeastern Europe.
1–2,17 – Ganichata II; 3–16,18,19,21 –23 – Shirovanovo II (after (Мakarov, 2001)); 20,24 – Medvezhia Peschera;
25,26,34,44,45 – Gornaya Talitsa; 27 –33,36 –38,46 – Ust-Pozhva (after (Мakarov, 1997)); 35,39 –43 – Gorka (after
14 15 16 17
19 20 21 22
25 26 27 28
30 31 32 33 34 35
42 43 44
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40 A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45
Shirokov, 1997), Kuliyurttamak (Nekhoroshev, Girya,
2004), Baislantash cave (Kotov, 2004), Kapova cave
(Schelinsky, 1997), Ignatievskaya cave (Petrin, 1992),
and Gari (Serikov, 2000). Researchers have noted
the similarity between these sites and those of the
upper Kama in terms of lithic and bone tools. Also,
they have pointed to the cultural and chronological
intermediacy of the Uralian sites between the Late
Paleolithic (Talitsky, Shirovanovo II) and Final
Paleolithic (Gornaya Talitsa) sites of northeastern
Europe (Nekhoroshev, Girya, 2004; Nekhoroshev,
Giryja, 2004; Schelinsky, 1997; Petrin, 1992).
Thus, the Late and Final Upper Paleolithic assemblages
of northeastern Europe and the Urals share similarities
in the strategy of raw material exploitation, primary
knapping technique, tool manufacturing, and the typology
of implements. Certain differences in assemblages
are of minor importance and can easily be explained
by functional variability and imbalances in research
Investigations carried out in northeastern Europe in the
late 1990s and the early 2000s yielded some important
results. The Lower Paleolithic was recorded for the rst
time in the region; the presence of Mousterian localities
was con rmed and their age was estimated; Initial and
Early Upper Paleolithic sites were discovered; new data
on the Final and Late Upper Paleolithic were obtained.
These findings made it possible to arrive at several
conclusions concerning the evolution of the Paleolithic
in northeastern Europe.
Elniki II, a single Lower Paleolithic site in the region,
yielded few artifacts. It has not been systematically
studied. It is therefore premature to draw any conclusions
about the character the Lower Paleolithic in this region.
The Middle Paleolithic sites (the lower layer of
Garchi I and Pescherny Log) are quite similar to the
Micoquian of Eastern Europe in terms of character of
lithic assemblages. Eastern Micoquian tool kits are
characterized by bifacial symmetric and asymmetric
points and scrapers, as well as simple and convergent
sidescrapers with ventral trimming (many of them are
backed). The typological base of this industry is ake
knapping and the plano-convex retouching of tools
(Chabai, 2004). Typologically, the Middle Paleolithic
lithic assemblages of northeastern Europe fully conform
to this description. These sites apparently mark the
northeastern border of the Eastern Micoquian province
(presumably, at its early stage).
Four sites in the northeastern Europe are attributed
to the Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic (38,000 –
28,000 BP). In this group, the oldest sites are Mamontovaya
Kurya (38,000 – 34,000 BP) and Zaozerye (35,000 –
33,000 BP). It is impossible to de ne the cultural type
of Mamontovaya Kurya as it has yielded just a few
The absolute age of Zaozerye, the features of its stone
and bone tools and the types of ornaments strongly suggest
that the site dates from the Initial Upper Paleolithic
(Sinitsyn, 2003; Vishnyatski, Nehoroshev, 2004). The
Zaozerye lithic industry, despite some differences in tool
typology, is similar to the contemporaneous assemblages
of Eastern Europe. Its most important characteristic is the
presence of bifacial plano-convex tools having parallels
in Mousterian assemblages of the Eastern European
Micoquian. At the same time, the assemblage has
diagnostic Upper Paleolithic features such as volumetric
primary knapping using soft hammer for producing
large blades, large blades with abrupt scalar retouch,
double points on large blades, burins on truncations,
and carinated endscrapers. Zaozerye is one of the
earliest Upper Paleolithic sites in Eastern Europe, where
Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic technologies form a
In the central Russian Plain, the early stages of
the Upper Paleolithic are represented by sites of the
early chronological group (36,000 – 32,000 BP) of the
Kostenki-Borschevo region on the upper Don: Kostenki
XVII (layer II) and XIV (layer IVb) (Synitsin, 2003)
and by the earliest sites of the Kostenki-Streletskaya
culture – Kostenki XII (layer III) and XI (layer V)
(Anikovich, 1997; Sinitsyn, 2003).
The stone assemblage of layer II of Kostenki XVII
displays no archaic features at all. The industry is
characterized by volumetric aking. The toolset comprises
endscrapers on blades and carinated endscrapers.
Most numerous are burins on oblique truncations.
The assemblage contains splintered pieces, points,
microblades, and backed bladelets. The Zaozerye
assemblage shares some similarities with this industry.
In my view, however, these similarities mainly concern
technological aspects; typologically, these industries are
different and cannot be merged into one cultural group.
The blade-based technology of primary knapping
is also typical of the small assemblage of layer IVb of
Kostenki XIV (radiocarbon age – 32,000 – 36,000 BP)
(Sinitsyn, 2002). Cores are represented by volumetric,
at, edge-facetted and radial varieties. Typologically,
the assemblage is characterized by endscrapers, dihedral
burins, splintered pieces, and oval and sub triangular
bifaces (Ibid.). The key typological features of this
assemblage differ from those of Zaozerye, except for
the oval bifaces, which, however, differ in morphology.
The lithic collection from Kostenki XIV layer IVb is
admittedly scanty, and the resemblance between these
sites may increase after more materials have been
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The mentioned sites share one important trait –
the presence of personal ornaments. The technique of
ornament manufacturing from layer II of Kostenki XVII is
the most similar to that used at Zaozerye. Conical unilateral
drilling was used on both sites. Pendants from belemnites,
at pebbles, fossilized shells, corals and canines of polar
fox are widely represented in Kostenki XVII (Paleolit…,
1982). Adornment pieces from Kostenki retain the initial
shape of blanks, while pendants and beads from Zaozerye
were intentionally made oval or round, which implied
a more sophisticated manufacturing process. Types of
ornaments are also different. All pendants from Kostenki
XVII have one hole, while some Zaozerye pendants have
two holes placed in a row.
The use of fossilized shells as ornaments has been
reported at Kostenki XIV layer IVb. The shells, however,
were not specially processed; holes on them were
punched, not drilled as on Zaozerye specimens (Sinitsyn,
There is less similarity with the earliest sites of
Kostenki-Streletskaya culture of the upper Don. The
resemblance only concerns Mousterian tools with a plane-
convex retouch. Technical and typological features of
the collections are incomparable. The Zaozerye industry
is quite different from these sites due to advanced soft-
hammer blade technique, the absence of bifacial triangular
projectiles, and the presence of personal adornments, bone
and antler tools.
Thus the Zaozerye assemblage has no direct analogues
among contemporaneous sites on the Russian Plain and
can be singled out as a speci c cultural type.
In northeastern Europe, the Zaozerye industry parallels
the assemblage of the considerably younger Byzovaya site
(Pavlov, 2004). These two sites are similar in terms of
the structure of the stone assemblages composed of two
technical and morphological groups of tools – Mousterian
and Upper Paleolithic. The rst group is represented by
Kielmesser knives and sidescrapers; the second group
comprises tools made on blades – endscrapers, burins,
and points. Similarity between the sites is also seen in the
strategy of exploitation of raw materials. Both sites are
characterized by the extensive use of int from natural
outcrops, sometimes situated quite far away (up to 60 km
The end of the Early Upper Paleolithic is represented
by Garchi I (upper layer) and Byzovaya (29,000 –
28,000 BP). The cultural af liation of Garchi I is quite
clear – it belongs to the Kostenki-Streletskaya culture.
A rich stone assemblage (more than 5,000 items) allows
the assessment of the position of the site within the
chronological framework elaborated by M.V. Anikovich
(1991). He identi ed three chronological periods in the
evolution of this culture: (1) early – 36,000 – 32,000 BP
(layer III of Kostenki XII and Kostenki VI); (2) middle –
32,000 – 28,000 BP (represented by assemblages from
layer V of Kostenki I and small collections from layer V
of Kostenki XI and layer Ia from Kostenki XII); and (3)
nal – 27,000 – 25,000 BP (Sungir, Biruchya Balka). Garchi I
site chronologically ts to the middle period. According
to Anikovich, the assemblage of Garchi I is typologically
similar to the assemblage from layer V of Kostenki I, which
corresponds to the chronology of the sites (Ibid.).
While generally agreeing with this opinion, I will
mention certain important peculiarities of Garchi I
assemblage, which do not fully conform to the typological
characteristics of the middle stage of Kostenki-Streletskaya
Primary reduction strategy, along with at knapping
typical of this culture, is characterized by a special method
of making standardized blanks – counterstrike splitting
of oval flint pebbles – completely unknown at other
Kostenki-Streletskaya sites. This peculiarity, however,
can probably be attributed to the character of the site’s
raw material base.
The Garchi I tool kit demonstrates the combination
of types characteristic of all three chronological stages of
Kostenki-Streletskaya culture. Garchi I resembles the early
assemblages of this culture (Кostenki XII layer III) by the
presence of rare tool types such as chisels with concave
working edges, points with endscraper retouch, and int
plates with straight bifacial working edges. It resembles
assemblages of the middle stage (Kostenki I, layer V)
based on some types of triangular bifacial projectiles
and transversal burins, and assemblages of the nal stage
(Sungir) based on elongate triangular bifacial projectiles
with straight bases and small circular endscrapers. The
tool types characteristic of the middle and nal stages of
the Kostenki-Streletskaya culture prevail in the Garchi I
assemblage. The main difference between Garchi I and
the sites of the Kostenki group is that at the former site,
“Aurignacian” endscrapers (carinated, double endscrapers
with abrupt marginal retouch, and endscrapers with a
spur on the working edge) are present. Similar types of
endscrapers are known in the assemblages of Sungir and
The Byzovaya Early Upper Paleolithic site is rather
speci c both in terms of the composition of the lithic
assemblage and artifact typology. Primary reduction is
characterized by cores of volumetric and at knapping.
Two technical and morphological groups of tools –
Middle and Upper Paleolithic – can be clearly recognized
in the assemblage. The rst group is represented by plano-
convex bifaces, including backed crescent Kielmesser
knives, and various sidescrapers, including typical Quina
forms. Striking analogues can be found in the assemblages
of the sites of the Staroselie facie of the Crimean
Micoquian tradition (Staroselie, Kabazi II, etc.) (Chabai,
2004): crescent backed knives, asymmetrical triangular
bifaces, and sub-trapezoid unifacial sidescrapers. The
Upper Paleolithic group is comprised of endscrapers on
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42 A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45
elongated blanks, carinated and pointed endscrapers,
simple burins on blades, large splintered pieces, points,
and bifacial foliates.
As already mentioned, according to the basic structural
characteristics of the stone assemblage – a combination of
the Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic groups of artifacts –
Byzovaya shares some similarities with the older Zaozerye
site. At the same time, some types of tools have analogues
in the assemblages of the Kostenki-Streletskaya culture.
These are int plates with bifacial retouch, a bifacial
foliate, and large crescent knives with convex bifacial
working edges. Some parallels can also be traced with
assemblages attributed to the last stage of this culture,
especially with Sungir. Endscrapers on short blades with
straight working edges resemble Sungir implements of
this sort. Lyngby type antler mattocks were found at both
sites (Bader, 1978). The Byzovaya assemblage contains
typical “Aurignacian” tools – carinated and pointed
endscrapers and large splintered pieces. Their presence
in combination with Kostenki-Streletskaya types links
Byzovaya with Garchi I. This parallel notwithstanding,
it is impossible to classify Byzovaya with Kostenki-
Streletskaya sites, since the fossil directeurs of this culture –
triangular bifacial projectiles and triangular endscrapers
with ventral retouch – are absent in Byzovaya. Generally,
the Byzovaya industry is unique and can be de ned as a
separate cultural unit; however, taking into consideration
the specific type of the site, this conclusion needs
The small size of the collection from Bliznetsov grotto
precludes a reliable comparative analysis.
Thus, the Initial and Early Upper Paleolithic of
northeastern Europe European is characterized by a
combination of the Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic
traditions. Hypotheses about the contribution of the
Eastern Micoquian to the genesis of the Upper Paleolithic
in Eastern Europe were repeatedly put forward by
researchers (Anikovich, Rogachev, 1984; Anikovich,
2006; Cohen, Stepanchuk, 2001; Vishnyatski, Nehoroshev,
2004). The new data from the north of Eastern Europe
support this supposition.
Late Upper Paleolithic sites in northeastern Europe
date back to the beginning of the second half of the Late
Valdai (19,000 – 16,000 BP): These are Talitsky site,
Shirovanovo II, Medvezhia Peschera, and Ganichata II.
Materials of these sites are rather similar to assemblages
of the middle stage (from 27,000 to 24,000 – 18–
17,000 BP) of the Upper Paleolithic of Siberia, where
this period is characterized by the emergence of the so-
called “small blade industries” (Vasiliev, 2000; Lisitsyn,
Svezhentsev, 1997; Zenin, 2002). Geographically closest
to the Late Upper Paleolithic sites of northeastern Europe
are Early Sartan (second half of the Late Valdai) sites
of the aforementioned chronological group in Western
Siberia: Shestakovo (layers 24 – 17), Achinskaya,
Tomskaya, and Evalga (Lisitsyn, Svezhentsev, 1997;
Zenin, 2002). All these sites share similarities in the
primary reduction techniques and typological parameters
of the lithic assemblages. Cores are represented by small
at, prismatic, and edge-facetted varieties. The main type
of the blank is an irregular blade 2 – 5 cm long. The tool
kit comprises blades with marginal retouch (including
denticulate retouch), truncated blades and bladelets,
endscrapers on blades and elongate blanks (including
carinated ones) and circular endscrapers on flakes,
splintered pieces, and pebble tools (Lisitsyn, Svezhentsev,
1997; Zenin, 2002, Akimova, 2006). Differences between
assemblages concern details of retouch and typological
As mentioned above, in northeastern Europe, prismatic,
multidirectional and at cores are also typical of the Late
Upper Paleolithic assemblages. The main type of blank
is an irregular blade 3 – 5 cm long. Blades and akes
were used in equal proportion for tools production. The
toolset consists of endscrapers on blades, blade fragments
and elongated blanks, including tools with steep working
edges, small circular endscrapers, transverse burins,
burins on truncations and breaks, splintered pieces,
blades with notches formed by marginal retouch, backed
bladelets, truncated blades and bladelets, and pebble tools.
The presence of speci c types of blades fashioned with
dorsal, marginal retouch of the striking platform (Fig. 4,
20) is noteworthy. According to V.N. Zenin (2002), such
a method, similar to truncation, is speci c to the Siberian
Paleolithic and it has been recorded in assemblages of the
Thus, despite a number of differences, mostly
concerning the abundance of burins (up to 20 % of tools)
and their typological diversity in northeastern European
assemblages, the latter display marked similarity to those
from Siberia. New evidence will possibly demonstrate
that Late Paleolithic industries of northeastern Europe
are, in fact, part of Siberian small-blade industries.
V.N. Zenin, too, points to a considerable similarity
between small-blade industries of Western Siberia and the
Late Upper Paleolithic assemblages of the Urals during
the 25(27),000 – 18(16),000 BP interval (Ibid.).
Probably by the end of the Late Valdai, a regional
Uralian culture was formed on the basis of Late Upper
Paleolithic complexes (Talitsky, Shirovanovo II,
Medvezhia Peschera, Gari). Sites such as Bolshoy Gluhoy
grotto, Bobylyek grotto, Kulurttamak, Baislantash,
Kapova cave, and Ignatievskaya cave can be attributed to
this culture. The dates of these sites range from 15,000 –
13,000 years. The nal stage of the culture is represented
by the sites Gornaya Talitsa, Stolbovoy grotto, Ust-Pozhva
II – VI, Gorka, Pymva-Shor I, and the third cultural layer
of Bolshoy Glukhoy grotto. Perhaps, these sites date
back to the Final Pleistocene and the Early Holocene
(11,000 – 9500 (?) BP).
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A.P. Derevianko / Archaeology Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia 33/1 (2008) 33–45 43
Long-term studies have made it possible to trace the
evolution of Paleolithic cultures in northeastern Europe.
Paleolithic sites in the region form a cluster, as is
typical of the Eurasian Paleolithic (Sinitsyn, Praslov,
1997). Most sites (from the Lower to the Final Upper
Paleolithic) are concentrated within a rather limited
area of the upper Kama valley – from the Inva River
estuary to the lower portion of its large tributary, the
Chusovaya River. It is possible that such a clustering was
mostly determined by environmental and geographical
conditions of the western foothills of the Urals. Vast
valleys, hilly piedmonts, and low mountains crossed
by large river valleys are situated in this comparatively
small region. A variety of landscapes offered favorable
conditions for various herbivores and, consequently, for
Paleolithic hunters. It should be stressed that during the
periods of sharp climate changes typical of the Middle
and Late Pleistocene, a diversity of biotopes would have
provided relatively favorable conditions, at least in some
parts of the region.
In northeastern Europe, most chronological
subdivisions of the Paleolithic are represented. The
earliest sites in the southern portion of the region (in
the upper Kama basin) appeared as early as the Middle
Pleistocene. In the extreme northeast of the region, in the
Pechora River basin, the earliest sites date back to the
second half of the Late Pleistocene (Middle Valdai).
An important feature of northeastern European Upper
Paleolithic is that sites dating from the Initial and the
Early Upper Paleolithic (38,000 – 28,000 BP) as well
as from the Late and Final Upper Paleolithic (19,000 –
9500 (?) BP) have been discovered, whereas no sites
dating from the Middle Upper Paleolithic (27,000 –
20,000 BP) have yet been reported from the region.
Evidently, the evolution of the Upper Paleolithic in
northeastern Europe was a discontinuous process, which
may be due to the fact that the region was situated close
to the Late Valdai glaciation center.
One of the major characteristics of the Paleolithic in
the study area is the distinct difference between the Early
Upper and Late Upper Paleolithic assemblages. The
Early Upper Paleolithic assemblages are characterized
by the presence of two groups of artifacts – Middle
and Upper Paleolithic. These assemblages are similar
to contemporaneous industries of the Russian Plain.
Northeastern European industries dating from the second
half of the Late Valdai are generally similar to Western
Siberian small-blade industries dating from the Early
Sartan stage. The former gave rise to the rst distinctly
regional Paleolithic culture – that of Urals – which existed
until the Early Holocene.
Upper Paleolithic sites demonstrate that the economy
of northeastern Europe was based on unspecialized large
ungulate hunting, and that the lifestyle was quite mobile.
One of the peculiar adaptations to northern environments
is evidenced by an unusual type of camp, situated on
natural accumulations of large mammal bones – the
so-called “mammoth cemeteries” – which are absent
outside sub-Arctic Eurasia. Apart from northeastern
Europe, such camps existed in both Western and Eastern
Siberia (Derevianko et al., 2000; Zenin, 2002) throughout
the Upper Paleolithic, apparently due to the ecological
conditions of the sub-Arctic.
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