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The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation

Authors:
  • Instite for the History of Material Culture. Russian Academy of Sciences
27
Abstract
This paper deals with the structure, composition, and chro-
nology of the early stage of the Upper Palaeolithic in the
Kostenki-Borshchevo area, from the earliest manifestation of
Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes to the appearance of the
local Gravettian. This is a principal unit of Upper Palaeolithic
classification showing a fundamental change in the organiza-
tion of the Upper Palaeolithic European world at 28–30 ka.
The Kostenki model provides evidence of both general Eu-
ropean evolutional trends and particular local features, which
appear to be the basis for its distinction as a separate period of
Upper Palaeolithic classification.
Keywords
Upper Palaeolithic, Kostenki’ model of evolution, EUP-MUP
boundary.
1. Geo-cultural Zones of the European Upper Palaeolithic
The concentration of Upper Palaeolithic sites at Kostenki is
an extraordinary phenomenon both with respect to the quan-
tity of sites in a relatively small area around the two villages of
Kostenki and Borshchevo, and the cultural variability contained
in these sites. They also are rare in terms of the range of archaeo-
logical data – virtually every category of archaeological remains
known from the Upper Palaeolithic is present, including lithics,
faunal assemblages, traces of former dwellings and other features
such as hearths and pits, art objects, personal ornaments, hu-
man skeletal remains and burials with funeral objects. Only cave
paintings are absent, because of the lack of caves and rock.
On the basis of these characteristics, the Kostenki-Borsh-
chevo sites are rare, but not unique: comparable concentra-
tions of Upper Palaeolithic sites are also known from parts of
Europe such as Les Eyzies (Dordogne) and Pavlov (Moravia).
What is unique about the Kostenki-Borshchevo sites is that
they contain their own peculiar sequence of industries that
represents a distinct regional pattern comparable to much larg-
er geographic areas of Europe.
Nine major geographic areas or zones of cultural evolu-
tion are identified for the European Upper Palaeolithic (Fig.
1). There seems to be consensus that each of these areas, such
as the Aquitanian, western Mediterranean, Central Europe,
Balkans, eastern Mediterranean, and others, represents distinct
zones of local cultural development during the Upper Palaeo-
lithic. During some time periods, one or more areas reflect
common developments (see
dJiNdJiAN
2006):
a) the Early Upper Palaeolithic (EUP) exhibits a binary pat-
tern, one component of which is the Aurignacian with a con-
tinental distribution, while the other is represented by series of
local “transitional” cultures: Castelperronean for Western Eu-
rope; Uluzzo for a limited part of the Western Mediterranean,
Szeletian and Bohunician traditions for Central Europe; and
Streletskian for Eastern Europe. On the basis of the local “tran-
sitional” component, no more than five areas or zones may be
distinguished in Europe during this epoch;
b) the Middle Upper Palaeolithic (MUP) is characterized
by various Gravettian technocomplexes (Noaillian, Maizerian,
Pavlovian, Kostenkien, etc.) considerably exceeding the nine
major zones of local cultural evolution on one hand, but actu-
ally representing one unified Gravettian cultural entity from
the Atlantic coast to the Don River;
c) the Magdalenian unification of Europe is a diagnostic fea-
ture of the Late Upper Palaeolithic period (LUP), along with
the post-Gravettian dominance of the Mediterranean areas.
Among the various approaches to classification – either
those of general periodization or those based on local models
of cultural evolution – Eastern Europe is represented as a uni-
form zone of development, primarily because of the relatively
limited degree of investigation of this huge territory in com-
parison to Western and Central Europe.
In fact, Upper Palaeolithic Eastern Europe contains its
own set of geographic areas with local cultural developments,
the eArly upper pAlAeolithic of KosteNKi: chroNology,
tAxoNomy, ANd culturAl AffiliAtioN
A. A. Sinitsyn
28 A. A. Sinitsyn
analogous to Europe as a whole. Six local zones have been
identified in Eastern Europe: southwestern, middle Dnieper,
southern steppe, northeastern (probably containing a distinct
Ural zone), Caucasus, and the Middle Don (Fig. 2). Although
the Middle Don River area occupies a comparatively small
territory among these zones, the Kostenki-Borshchevo sites
warrant the status of a separate area on the basis of their own
distinctive sequence of local cultural development.
The objective of this paper is to characterize the structure,
composition, and chronology of the early stage of the Upper
Palaeolithic in the Kostenki-Borshchevo area, from the earliest
manifestation of Upper Palaeolithic technocomplexes to the
appearance of the local Gravettian. The paper also addresses the
context of the appearance of the Gravettian, which represents
a principal unit of Upper Palaeolithic classification, and a fun-
damental change in the organization of the Upper Palaeolithic
European world at 28–30 ka.
2. The Kostenki Model
The Kostenki model of Upper Palaeolithic cultural evolu-
tion currently possesses more similarities with the general Eu-
Fig. 1: Main zones of particular models of evolution of the European Upper Palaeolithic (
gAmble
1986, Fig. 3.1, p. 72).
Fig. 2: Main zones of particular models of evolution of the East
European Upper Palaeolithic.
29The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
Research at Kostenki during the past decade (
hAesAerts
et
al. 2004,
levKovsKAyA
et al. 2005;
siNitsyN
,
hoffecKer
2006,
ANiKovich
et al. 2007;
hollidAy
et al. 2007) has been under-
taken within the context of this paradigm, but has revealed
evidence of earlier occupations in the lowest layers of the se-
quence, and addressed the problem of reconciling chronologi-
cal data obtained by different methods and varying degrees of
precision and accuracy.
2.1 Chronological Group I
Two cultural entities were identified in the earliest chrono-
logical group on the basis of field research in the 1950s and
1960s by A. N. Rogachev (
rogAchev
1957) at Kostenki 1, 8,
11, 12, and 14, and by P. I. Boriskovsky (
borisKovsKy
1963) at
Kostenki 17. The fossil directeur for the first of these entities
Streletskian (found in Kostenki 1, cultural layer V; Kostenki 6;
Kostenki 11, cultural layer V; and Kostenki 12, cultural layer III)
was the bifacial triangular point with concave base, associated
with both Upper and Middle Palaeolithic typological elements.
The second Spitsynean (based on the assemblage in cultural
layer II at Kostenki 17) was characterized by the total absence
of any Mousterian attributes, both with respect to technology
and typology, and the presence of personal ornaments of stone
and fossil (shells and belemnites).
Two other cultural entities were added on the basis of exca-
vations during 1998–2006 in the eastern portion of Kostenki
14 (Markina gora): an assemblage of Aurignacian affiliation
with Dufour bladelets (lamelles Dufour) associated with the lay-
er of volcanic ash (
siNitsyN
2003a); and a new, previously un-
known cultural tradition represented in cultural layer IVb with
blade and microblade technology, typical Upper Palaeolithic
tools with partly bifacial oval tools, an atypical bone artifact
assemblage, personal ornaments, and figurative and decorative
art objects (
siNitsyN
2004a).
ropean (West European) model than the other East European
geo-cultural zones. Only the Kostenki group yields evidence
of firmly dated early Upper Palaeolithic occupations in the
37–28 ka time range (37,000–28,000 uncalibrated radiocarbon
years ago), and only at Kostenki is the EUP replaced by a typi-
cal MUP at 28 ka.
The tripartite periodization of the Kostenki Palaeolithic se-
quence was established by A. N. Rogachev (
rogAchev
1957)
during the 1950s on the basis of a tripartite division of geo-
logical sediments by the geologists M. N. Grishchenko (
gr
-
ishcheNKo
1950), G. I. Lazukov (
lAzuKov
1957a, b), and A. A.
Velichko (
velichKo
1963). Sites of the IIIrd (youngest) chron-
ological group were distinguished on the basis of their cultural
layers in deposits of loessic loam on the first and second ter-
races of the Don River and major side-valley ravines, while
sites of the Ist and IInd chronological groups were attributed
to the two humic beds, respectively, which are subdivided by a
layer of volcanic ash (
velichKo, rogAchev
1969).
During the 1970s and 1980s, N. D. Praslov, together with
L. D. Sulerzhitsky (
prAslov
,
soulerJytsKy
1997), E. A. Spiri-
donova (
spiridoNovA
1991, 2002), and S. A. Pisarevsky (
pisA
-
revsKy
1983) determined on the basis of natural-scientific
methods unique for that time the following chronological
boundaries for the three groups (Fig. 3)
Ist chronological group: 36–33 ka;
IInd chronological group: 32–27 ka;
IIIrd chronological group: 26–20 ka.
On the basis of palynological data, the Lower Humic Bed
was correlated with the Hengelo – Les Cottès oscillation, and
the Upper Humic Bed with the Arcy-Denekamp (
mAlyAsovA
,
spiridoNovA
1982;
spiridoNovA
1991). Sites of the Last Glacial
Maximum and Tardiglacial period (20–12 ka) appear to be ab-
sent at Kostenki (
siNitsyN
et al. 1997) because of the absence
of geological deposits of this age
Fig. 3: Kostenki-Borshchevo area. Distribution of Upper Palaeolithic sites. I – first chronological group (37/42/-33 ka); II – second
chronological group (32–28 ka); III – third chronological group (27–20 ka).
30
Palaeolithic. On the basis of these considerations, the assem-
blages of chronological group I are divided into two subgroups:
IUP (~ 42–36 ka) and EUP (36–28 ka).
2.2 Chronological Group II
Chronological Group II at Kostenki is characterized by
the binary EUP structure, comprising coexisting Aurignacian
(cultural layer III at Kostenki 1) and “transitional” Streletskian
assemblages (cultural layer Ia of Kostenki 12 and cultural layer
III of Kostenki 11). To these may be added the Gravettian as-
semblage in cultural layer II at Kostenki 8 and the unique East
European Gorodtsov culture (Gorodtsovian) in cultural layers
II at Kostenki 14, Kostenki 15, and others.
The pattern is similar to that of Chronological Group I. No
other Upper Palaeolithic geographic area or zone exhibits such
a high degree of cultural variability in this time period (32–27
ka). Once again, at least two possible interpretations emerge: 1)
a set of four cultural traditions, existing simultaneously within
the same geologic isochron, and 2) two chronologically suc-
cessive sub-groups, each with its own particular composition,
possibly overlapping in part. Neither stratigraphic nor palyno-
logical evidence can resolve this problem because of the pro-
nounced stratigraphic variability of the Upper Humic Bed at
different sites and sections. Only radiocarbon dates provide
support for the second interpretation. A date of 27 ka for the
Gravettian cultural layer II at Kostenki 8 (Telmanskaya), and a
series of dates for the Gorodtsovian cultural layer II of Kos-
tenki 14 (Markina gora) at around 28 ka suggest a younger age
for both the Gravettian and Gorodtsovian assemblages. Dates
of about 32 ka for Aurignacian cultural layer III at Kostenki
1 and Streletskian cultural layer Ia at Kostenki 12 appear to
support an older age for these cultural unities within the IInd
chronological group.
Most important in a broader European context is the oc-
currence of an early manifestation of the Gravettian (cultural
layer II at Kostenki 8) within Chronological Group II, and
more precisely in its upper part at about 28 ka. Elsewhere,
from the Atlantic coast to Kostenki, the earliest Gravettian as-
semblages appear along with the Aurignacian (also with “tran-
sitional” cultures), but reflect the beginning of a new epoch
(MUP) characterized by a widespread Gravettian “mosaic”
entity (
svobodA
2004) representing a new pattern in the Eu-
ropean Upper Palaeolithic world. A special feature of the Kos-
tenki sequence is the additional presence of the Gorodtsovian,
a unique East European cultural phenomenon.
No other European geographic area or zones exhibits this
degree of cultural variability during the EUP period with the
exception of Moravia, where the binary opposition of Auri-
gnacian and Szeletian (local transitional industry) is comple-
mented by the Bohunician tradition, and probably the Balkan
area, where the XIth cultural layer at Bacho-Kiro contains a
non-Aurignacian and non-transitional industry (for a discus-
sion of the current state of the problem, see
KozłowsKy
2004).
In both cases, these industries appear to be older than the Au-
rignacian.
At least two interpretations of the pattern observed in
chronological group I seem to be possible: 1) the simultaneous
presence of four separate cultural traditions, and 2) the presence
of two contemporaneous cultural traditions during a late phase
(Aurignacian and Streletskian) and two other traditions during
an early phase (Spitsynean and cultural layer IVb at Kostenki
14). At present, the second interpretation seems more probable.
Both cultural layer II at Kostenki 17 and layer IVb at Kostenki
14 occupy lower relative stratigraphic positions and underlie
sediments that yield evidence of the Laschamps paleomagnetic
excursion (~ 42 ka). Moreover, the later sub-group exhibits the
familiar EUP binary structure (i.e., Aurignacian in the volcanic
ash at Kostenki 14 and “transitional” Streletskian).
According to this view, the cultural entities of the lower
sub-group represent a separate unit. Along with some other
East European assemblages, such as Zaozer’e 1 at Ural (
pAv
-
lov
2002a,
pAvlov
et al. 2006), Sokirnitsa in the Transcarpathia
(
usiK
2003,
usiK
et al. 2003, 2003–2004, 2004), Buran-Kaya
III, cultural layer C in Crimea (
chAbAi
2003), it may be identi-
fied as an Initial Upper Palaeolithic (IUP) stratum (
siNitsyN
2003b, 2005).
These assemblages lack common techno-typological pa-
rameters, however, and the basis for grouping them together
lies in their stratigraphic and chronologic position:
a) each represents the earliest Upper Palaeolithic techno-
complex known in that geographic area (at least older than the
local Aurignacian, which is traditionally used as a stratigraphic
marker for the EUP);
b) none can be assigned to the Aurignacian, nor be de-
scribed as “transitional”;
c) they appear suddenly, without obvious local predecessors,
and also disappear suddenly without continuation;
d) they contain, in most cases, an unusual combination of
material culture elements, the appearance of which tradition-
ally is connected with more ancient periods of the Upper
Palaeolithic, or even with the post-Palaeolithic epoch (e.g.,
Magdalenian techno-typological basis of the industry for cul-
tural layer II of Kostenki 17, bone assemblage for cultural layer
IVb of Kostenki 14, trapeze for Buran-Kaya, cultural layer C).
The classification of these various assemblages as IUP stra-
tum seems appropriate, because all of them lie outside the clas-
sic binary EUP pattern and in the earliest stage of the Upper
A. A. Sinitsyn
31
blade knapping technology in a variety of technical methods.
Volumetric and flat uni- and bi-polar cores are identified, but
the most numerous are cores on dolomite slabs morphologi-
cally similar to lateral burins. The technology of microblade
production represents a separate method with some modifica-
tions reflected in the thick flakes and blades used as cores. The
tools comprise end-scrapers and burins of variable morphol-
ogy, varied splintered pieces, and items with concave and fluted
working edges. Particularly noteworthy are several oval bifaces
with plano-convex profiles. Also significant is the bone assem-
blage (Fig. 6) containing a series of “mattock-like” tools on
bone, antler, and mammoth tusk with “splintered” extremities.
The fragment of anthropomorphic figurine, probably the head,
unfinished and broken during the process of manufacturing,
seems to be the oldest known sculpted human image in the
European Upper Palaeolithic. Especially intriguing is an orna-
ment with two holes manufactured on a Columbellidae shell (a
tropical gastropod, the modern ecology of which is connected
with the Mediterranean Basin). As excavations continue in the
lowest cultural layer of Markina gora and each season of field
studies yields new materials and new information, all conclu-
sions about its cultural affiliation remain preliminary. Although
some Aurignacian types of burins, such as busked burins (burins
busqué), Vashon burins (burin des Vashons), are present as isolated
artifacts (Fig. 5 a, b), the assemblage contrasts sharply to both
the Aurignacian and the various “transitional” industries.
A distinctive feature of both assemblages in the Initial Upper
Palaeolithic stratum is the uniform character of the raw materi-
als within each assemblage. The Spitsynean artifacts were made
on Cretaceous black flint of high quality, the nearest sources
of which are known at a distance of no less than 150 km from
Kostenki (
borisKovsKy
1963). Siliceous limestone (dolomite)
of local origin appears to predominate in cultural layer IVb at
Kostenki 14, although a wide array of raw materials, includ-
ing a few pieces of Cretaceous black flint are represented in
the tool kit and debitage. The model of adaptation for both
cultural traditions may be defined as highly mobile, but with
varying orientation. The Spitsynean reflects the use of distant,
high-quality materials, while the occupants of cultural layer
IVb at Markina gora preferred the available local materials.
3.2 The Early Upper Palaeolithic: Aurignacian and
Streletskian
Throughout Europe, the Early Upper Paleolithic is character-
ized by a binary structure, one component of which is Aurigna-
cian, while the other is represented by a series of local “tran-
sitional” cultures – in Eastern Europe by the Streletskian. The
Streletskian at Kostenki is radiocarbon dated at 36–32 ka; the
radiocarbon age of the Aurignacian at two Kostenki sites is nearly
32 ka. Because the cultural “horizon in volcanic ash” at Kostenki
14 lies both within and below the volcanic ash, which is derived
from the CI eruption (Campanian Ignimbrite) at the Phlegrean
3. Cultural Composition and Discussion
3.1 Initial Upper Palaeolithic: Spitsynean and IVb cultural
layer of Markina gora
The recognition of assemblages older than those of the tra-
ditional Early Upper Palaeolithic and distinct from both Au-
rignacian and “transitional” cultures is an important feature of
the cultural sequence documented at Kostenki in the last few
years. These assemblages include the Spitsynean (cultural layer II
of Kostenki 17 or the Spitsyn site) and the cultural tradition of
layer IVb at Kostenki 14 (Markina gora). Uncalibrated radiocar-
bon dates of 36–37 ka (
siNitsyN
,
hoffecKer
2006,
hollidAy
et al. 2007) may be considered the upper limit of the true age
of the assemblages. The stratigraphic position of both cultural
layers underlying sediments identified with the Laschamps pa-
laeomagnetic excursion (~ 42 ka) (
pisArevsKy
1983,
gerNiK
,
gusKovA
2002) provides the primary evidence of such an early
age, the correlation of which with the radiocarbon time-scale
remains one of the principal problems of chronology at Kos-
tenki. Neither assemblage can be assigned to the Aurignacian or
to any of the “transitional” cultures. The chronological position
of these sites may overlap with EUP assemblages, because their
apparent place in the sequence of Upper Palaeolithic cultural
development may or may not correspond to their age, as in the
case of the “survival” of the Mousterian in some regions.
3.1.1 Spitsynean
The Spitsynean industry is characterized by complete dom-
inance of blade knapping technology based on uni- and bi-
polar removal of blades from volumetric and semi-volumetric
cores, a typical Upper Palaeolithic tool kit, and numerous and
varied sets of personal ornaments, including pendants on stone
and fossil shell with holes for suspension made by bilateral drill-
ing (Fig. 4). A wide range of possible cultural affiliations has
been suggested for this industry: J.K. Kozlowsky (
KozłowsKy
1986) placed it in the Gravettian sequence, and later (see
dJiN
-
dJiAN
et al. 1999) in the Aurignacian (also see
ANiKovich
1992);
on the basis of its techno-typological features the excavator,
P. I. Boriskovsky (
borisKovsKy
1963), placed it in the “Ear-
ly Magdalenian” group of sites. At present, the Spitsynean is
identified as a separate cultural tradition of the Early Upper
Palaeolithic (
rogAchev
,
ANiKovich
1984). Nevertheless, both
the technological and typological composition of the lithic as-
semblage seems to be more similar to those of the Magdale-
nian, than those of the Aurignacian and/or Gravettian (
siNit
-
syN
2001). The recognition of Magdalenian stylistic elements
in cave paintings of the Early Upper Palaeolithic (
AmormiNo
2000,
vAllAdAs
et al. 2005) renders this pattern less bizarre.
3.1.2 Cultural Layer IVb at Markina gora
The artifact assemblage of cultural layer IVb – the “horizon
of hearth” (Fig. 5) also is characterized by predominance of
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
32
at the Gorodtsov site (Kostenki 15) on the basis of a very un-
usual lithic and bone assemblage, especially the “Mousterian”
component (Fig. 11). Large “shovels” made on mammoth
bones with “nail-like” heads of the haft were identified as a
fossil directeur for this cultural entity (Fig. 12). The emphasis
on flake technology and high proportion of tools on flakes
(which are predominant in cultural layer II at Kostenki 14),
the numerous and variable “Mousterian” tool types (up to
50 % in cultural layer II at Kostenki 14), and the relatively
rich bone assemblages – all of non-Aurignacian and non-
Gravettian character – establish these assemblages as a unique
East European cultural entity without analogies in other parts
of the continent. The specific sites included in the Gorodts-
ovian have been the subject of much debate: Kostenki 15,
Kostenki 4(I), Kostenki 14 (I, II) according to P.P. Efimenko
(
efimeNKo
1956, 1958); Kostenki 15, Kostenki 12 (I, or lo-
cality B), Kostenki 2, Kostenki 3, Kostenki 1 (II), and out-
side Kostenki, Karacharovo (Oka basin) and the Talitsky site
(Tchusovaya basin, Mid Ural) according to A. N. Rogachev
(
rogAchev
1957, 1961). G.P. Grigoriev (
grigoriev
1970)
has limited the number of Gorodtsovian assemblages to sites
of the IInd chronological group: Kostenki 15, Kostenki 14
(II), Kostenki 12 (I or locality B), Kostenki 16; A. A. Sinitsyn
(
siNitsyN
1982) has included all sites of the IInd chronologi-
cal group of non-Aurignacian and non-Gravettian affiliation;
M.V. Anikovich (
ANiKovich
1992) retains only the sites with
the distinctive bone “shovels”.
The current debate over the Gorodtsovian concerns: a) tax-
onomy – restricting the Gorodtsovian at Kostenki to the IInd
chronological group, most probably its upper part; and b) the
geographic distribution of the Gorodtsovian outside the Kos-
tenki area, specifically the possibility of including the Talitsky
site (Urals) (for discussion of the current debate see
grigoriev
1997, 2001,
siNitsyN
1997) and Mira (Ukraine) (
stepANchuK
et al. 1998, 2004a). There still remain the problems of the ori-
gin of Gorodtsovian and its evolution.
3.3.2 Gravettian appearance
The assemblage in cultural layer II at Kostenki 8 (Tel-
manskaya site) remains the most ancient manifestation of the
Gravettian in Eastern Europe. Its stratigraphic position in the
Upper Humic Bed is the basis for assigning this cultural layer
to the IInd chronological group in the Kostenki sequence, but
a single radiocarbon date of 27 ka may provide a possible up-
per limiting age.
Uni- and bi-polar flake production (both macrolithic and
microlithic forms) are evident from the few cores, most of
which are exhausted. The morphology of the blanks and tools
on blades indicate the predominance of Gravettian technology
(as opposed to Aurignacian blade technology). The typology of
the macro-component is typical: burins of varying sub-types,
including multifaceted pieces (some of them undoubtedly
fields in southern Italy and dated 39–41 ka (
toN-thAt
et al.
2001,
fedele
et al. 2003,
giAccio
et al. 2006, 2007), this Aurigna-
cian assemblage may be of the same age or slightly older. The
chronological position of the Streletskian component seems to
conform to the other European “transitional” cultural entities.
Assemblages assigned to the Aurignacian have been identi-
fied at three Kostenki sites: 1) the “horizon in volcanic ash” at
Kostenki 14 (Fig. 7) on the upper temporal boundary of the Ist
chronological group; 2) cultural layer III at Kostenki 1 (Fig. 8)
within the IInd chronological group; and 3) cultural layer II at
Kostenki 1 in the loessic loams, or within the IIIrd chronologi-
cal group (according to Rogachev’s scheme). The assignment
of all three assemblages is based on the techno-typological
features of the Aurignacian technocomplex, including Dufour
microblades of the Roc-de-Comb variety (
hAhN
1977,
siNit
-
syN
1993, 2003a).
The Streletskian industry (Fig. 10) is based on flake technol-
ogy (flakes serve as the primary blanks for tools) and contains
a wide variety of bifacial tools (including the fossil directeur tri-
angular point with concave base), numerous Mousterian tool
types (chiefly side-scrapers of various types). On the basis of the
technology and Mousterian tool component, the Streletskian
assemblages are traditionally identified as a “transitional” in-
dustry with a problematic range of possible predecessors: Mol-
davian (
ANiKovich
1983) and Crimea Mousterian (
ANiKovich
2001–2002), Central Russian (
tArAsov
2006), and East Sibe-
rian (
glAdiliN
,
demideNKo
1989).
The geographic distribution of the few indisputable Au-
rignacian assemblages in Eastern Europe, including Kostenki,
Crimea (Suren 1–D) (Cohen,
stepANchuK
1999, 2000–2001;
demideNKo
2000–2001;
demideNKo
,
otte
2000–2001;
vishNyAtsKy
,
Nehoroshev
2004), and also of the Streletski-
an from the Vladimir region (Soungir) (
bAder
1978,
bAder
,
lAvrushiN
1998;
ANiKovich
2005), Urals (Garchi 1) (
pAvlov
,
iNdrelid
2000), and the steppes of the Black Sea coastal area
(Biryuchya Balka) (
mAtiouKhiNe
1998;
otte
2000;
otte
et al.
2006) suggests an absence of both cultural traditions in certain
ecological zones. The distribution of sites in various habitats,
along with the exploitation of local raw materials, indicate a
high degree of mobility and adaptive flexibility for both the
Aurignacian and Streletskian populations.
3.3 The Problem of the EUP-MUP transition: Gorodtsovian
and Gravettian
One of the salient features of the Kostenki sequence is the
appearance in the upper part of the IInd chronological group
(in deposits of the Upper Humic Bed) of Gorodtsovian and
Gravettian assemblages.
3.3.1 Gorodtsovian
As a separate cultural unity, the Gorodtsovian was defined
by P.P. Efimenko (
efimeNKo
1956) following the excavations
A. A. Sinitsyn
33
do not coincide with the boundaries of the geologic units.
3. The recognition of an IUP stratum at Kostenki is based
on the distinctive character of the cultural assemblages and
their early chronological position (42–37 ka); the assemblages
of K14–IVb and K17–II do not represent Aurignacian or typi-
cal “transitional” cultures. The wider European context for the
Spitsynean and Markina gora (IVb) includes assemblages (cul-
tural layer XI of Bacho-Kiro, Sokernitsa 1, cultural layer C of
Buran-Kaya III, Zaozer’e 1), also from the basal Upper Palaeo-
lithic, that cannot be assigned to either the Aurignacian or local
“transitional” cultures.
This group of distinctive assemblages with few common
techno-typological elements underscores the extremely high
degree of variability of the earliest Upper Palaeolithic sites.
They are united, nevertheless, by several common character-
istics: they lack Mousterian features, they do not have obvi-
ous predecessors, they do not exhibit developmental change
through time, and they seem to disappear without issue.
4. The typical binary structure of the Early Upper Palaeo-
lithic (EUP), entailing coexistence of the pan-European Auri-
gnacian and a series of local “transitional” cultures at roughly
36–28 ka, is represented at Kostenki by the presence of Auri-
gnacian (Kostenki 1–III and Kostenki 14–“horizon in volcanic
ash”) and Streletskian assemblages (Kostenki 12–Ia, III, Kos-
tenki 6, Kostenki 1–V, Kostenki 11–V) in this time range.
5. The earliest appearance of Gravettian is identified at Ko-
stenki at 28 ka, simultaneously with the earliest manifesta-
tion of the Gravettian techcomplex in other parts of Europe
(Masiere, Geissenklosterle, Paglicci). In each area, the Gravet-
tian emerges as a fully developed complex in the context of
the later Aurignacian. Kostenki presents a more complicat-
ed situation owing to the additional presence of the unique
Gorodtsovian cultural entity that is unknown in other parts
of the continent.
6. The principal changes in the structure and composition of
Upper Palaeolithic cultures took place within specific climato-
stratigraphic units and not at the boundaries of such units (i.e.,
not during times of instability or major climate change).
Acknowledgments
The paper was prepared in the framework of the program
“Population and cultural adaptation to the natural environ-
ment’s changes…” of the Russian Academy of Sciences pre-
sidium; participation in the symposium “Aktuelle Aspekte des
mittel- und osteuropäischen Jungpaläolithikums – Methoden,
Chronologie, Technologie und Subsistenz” was made possible
by the support of the Prähistorische Kommission der Österre-
ichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Österreichis-
che Gesellschaft für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, and the benevo-
lent arrangements made by Dr. Ch. Neugebauer-Maresch. I
am grateful to all of them and to Dr. J. F. Hoffecker (Institute
of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, USA)
microblade cores); end-scrapers; perforators; and a number of
notched blades. The micro-component is dominant: nearly 900
pieces or more than 40% of the tool kit. Along with widespread
Gravettian points and backed bladelets with abrupt and semi-
abrupt retouch, bi-points, (quasi-)segments, and trapezes are
identified in the collection (Fig.13). The bone assemblage and
personal ornaments, while not numerous, are relatively diag-
nostic (
rogAchev
1953,
litovcheNKo
1969,
tchelidze
1968,
prAslov
,
rogAchev
1982).
The unusual composition of the lithic assemblage at the
site, without analogy in Eastern Europe, encouraged a search
for parallels in other parts of Europe. P. P. Efimenko (
efimeNKo
1953:25, 1960:14) saw the closest analogies to this assemblage
in the Gravettian of the Western Mediterranean, specifically in
“Menton’s grottoes”, with the local cultural tradition known
as “Grimaldian” (
efimeNKo
1956: 47–48, 1958:446). He also
believed (
efimeNKo
1960:14) that the “negroid” burial beneath
cultural layer III at Markina gora (Kostenki 14) (
rogAchev
1955,
debetz
1955,
siNitsyN
2004b) might reflect a south-
western origin for this tradition.
As in the case of the IUP, the Gorodtsovian and Early Gravet-
tian provide evidence of differing patterns of adaptations. The
wide spectrum of raw materials used in the Gorodtsovian con-
trasts with the uniform material base of the Gravettian assem-
blage at Telmanskaya, which was imported from Cretaceous
flint sources outside the Kostenki area.
The primary significance of the Gravettian appearance in
Kostenki around 27–28 ka is its relation to the broader prob-
lem of the origin of the Gravettian technocomplex and the
fundamental restructuring of the Upper Palaeolithic world
the replacement of the binary structure of the EUP with a
relatively uniform MUP organization. At present, it is widely
believed that the transition occurred suddenly and simultane-
ously in different parts of Europe at roughly 30–28 ka, and the
question of where it appeared first is open to debate (
otte
,
Noiret
2004).
4. Conclusions
1. The concentration of sites at Kostenki, although confined
to a small area, represents a separate and unique zone of Upper
Palaeolithic cultural development, comparable to other major
geographic zones in Europe (e.g., Mediterranean, Aquitanian,
etc.).
2. The chronology of the sites, which was originally based
solely on stratigraphy, now should be reconsidered in the light
of discrepancies between the geological (climato-stratigraphic)
and archaeological (epochs) sequences. The IUP-EUP inter-
face at Kostenki lies within the climato-sedimentologial cycle
of the Lower Humic Bed (traditionally correlated with the
Hengelo – Les Cottes oscillation) and the boundary of the
EUP-MUP lies within the cycle of the Upper Humic Bed
(equivalent to the Arcy – Denekamp oscillation); the transitions
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
34
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Address
A. A. Sinitsyn
Institute of the History of Material Culture
Russian Academy of Sciences
Dvortsovaia nab., 18
St. Petersburg. 191186
Russia
Email: sinitsyn@as6238.spb.edu
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Fig. 4: Spitsynean. Kostenki 17 (Spitsyn site), II cultural layer. Lithic assemblage, personal ornaments (after
borisKovsKy
, 1963).
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
40
Fig. 5: Kostenki 14 (Markina gora), IVb cultural layer. Lithic assemblage: a – burins busqué; b – burin de Vashons.
A. A. Sinitsyn
41
Fig. 6: Kostenki 14 (Markina gora), IVb cultural layer. Bone assemblage, personal ornament, art object.
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
42
Fig. 7: Aurignacian. Kostenki 14 (Markina gora), cultural layer in volcanic ash. Lithic assemblage.
A. A. Sinitsyn
43
Fig. 8: Aurignacian. Kostenki 1, III cultural layer. Lithic assemblage.
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
44
Fig. 9: Aurignacian. Bone assemblages, personal ornaments. A – Kostenki 1, III cultural layer; B – Kostenki 14, cultural layer in
volcanic ash.
A. A. Sinitsyn
45
Fig. 10: Streletskian: A – Kostenki 12, III cultural layer; B – Kostenki 1, V cultural layer (
rogAchev
,
ANiKovich
1984, Fig. 80–81,
p. 244–245).
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
46
Fig. 11: Gorodtsovian. Kostenki 15 (Gorodtsov site). Lithic assemblage.
A. A. Sinitsyn
47
Fig. 12: Gorodtsovian. Bone assemblages: A – Kostenki 15; B – Kostenki 12, I cultural layer; C – Kostenki 14, II cultural layer.
The Early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation
48
Fig. 13: Gravettian. Kostenki 8 (Telmanskaya site), II cultural layer.
A. A. Sinitsyn
... However, due to the presence of a single Streletskian point (Fig. 5,no. 2) the assemblage has also sometimes been classified as Streletskian/Sungirian (see for instance Debrosse & Kozlowski 1988, 48 cited in Flas 2015Djindjian et al. 1999, 149, 430;Noiret 2004, 441;Sinitsyn 2010; also see Layer IV has been discovered in 11 test-pits in different parts of the promontory. It is represented by lithic artefacts, bone fragments, and charcoal pieces found in the lower part of the loess-like loam, which overlies the Upper Humic Bed, and lenses of the Upper Humic Bed itself (Rogachёv 1961;Popov 1989). ...
... Layer V, the lowermost layer, has been identified only in small test-pits in the north-eastern part of the promontory (Fig. 3), positioned in the lower part of the Upper Humic Bed (Rogachёv 1968;Anikovich 1977;2005b;Lazukov 1982;Rogachёv & Popov 1982;Popov 1989;Popov et al. 2004;although Velichko & Rogachëv 1969 instead placed Layer V in the Lower Humic Bed). Layer V is generally referred to as Streletskian (eg, by Anikovich 1977;2005b;Bradley et al. 1995;Anikovich et al. 2008;Sinitsyn 2010;Djindjian et al. 1999; but see Matiukhin 2012, 216) on the basis of one complete and one broken Streletskian point (Fig. 5, no. 1). However, the meagre size of the archaeological assemblage -40 pieces, of which only five are retouched (Popov 1989;Popov et al. 2004)makes further characterisation of the assemblage difficult. ...
... As noted above, Kostёnki 11 Layer III has also been described as Streletskian/Sungirian, or has been seen as culturally linked to other Streletskian sites, due to the presence of a Streletskian point (Fig. 5. no. 2) (eg, Debrosse & Kozlowski 1988, 48, cited in Flas 2015Anikovich 2005b;Anikovich et al. 1997, 161;Djindjian et al. 1999, 149, 430;Noiret 2004, 441;Sinitsyn 2010; see also Rogachёv & Anikovich 1984;Popov 1989). The layer's apparently more recent age than assemblages with Streletskian points reported from the Lower Humic Bed (Kostёnki 1 Layer V, Kostёnki 6, Kostёnki 12 Layer III) and Upper Humic Bed (Kostёnki 11 Layer V, Kostёnki 12 Layer Ia) means that it has sometimes been viewed as the last manifestation of the Streletskian at Kostёnki; or, AF refers to routine ABA pre-treatment and ultrafiltration; AF* refers to solvent extraction (here, sequential extraction in acetone, methanol and chloroform) followed by routine ABA pre-treatment and ultrafiltration (Brock et al. 2010 Anikovich 1977, 12-15;Rogachёv & Popov 1982, 130;Lisitsyn 2014, 92). ...
Article
Full-text available
Triangular, concave-base ‘Streletskian points’ are documented in several assemblages from the Kostёnki complex of Upper Palaeolithic sites in south-western Russia. Some of these assemblages have been argued to evidence very early modern human occupation of Eastern Europe. However, Streletskian points are also recorded from younger contexts, notably at Kostёnki 11, where examples are attributed both to Layer V and the stratigraphically higher Layer III. The apparent relatively young age of Layer III has led some to view it as the latest manifestation of the Streletskian, although its assemblage has also been compared to the non-Streletskian Layer I of Kostёnki 8, with the two described together as the Anosovka-Tel’manskaya Culture. Radiocarbon dates of 24–23,000 bp ( c. 28,500–27,000 cal bp ) for a wolf burial associated with Layer III of Kostёnki 11 confirm the layer as younger than other Streletskian assemblages at Kostёnki. New radiocarbon dates for Kostёnki 8 Layer I show that the two layers are broadly contemporary, and that both are close in age to assemblages of Kostёnki’s (Late Gravettian) Kostёnki-Avdeevo Culture. In the light of these new radiocarbon dates the context of the Streletskian point from Kostёnki 11 Layer III is considered. Although firm conclusions are not possible, unresolved stratigraphic problems and the lack of technological context for this single artefact at the very least leave a question mark over its association with other material from the layer.
... Moreover, the number of assemblages exhibiting 'lames etrangl es' is generally low and apart from Western Europe tends to be zero (Tafelmaier, 2017). Moreover, wide-fronted carinated end-scrapers as present in Kostenki 1/III (Sinitsyn, 2010) and Kostenki 14/LVA (Bataille, 2013; are a regular feature of the socalled Protoaurignacian as well (Bataille, 2012(Bataille, , 2013Demidenko and Chabai, 2012;Falcucci et al., 2017;Tafelmaier, 2017). On the contrary, carinated cores with long subpyramidal reduction faces for the production of long and straight bladelets are present in Kostenki 1/III (e.g., Dinnis et al., 2019: Fig. 4). ...
... On the contrary, carinated cores with long subpyramidal reduction faces for the production of long and straight bladelets are present in Kostenki 1/III (e.g., Dinnis et al., 2019: Fig. 4). Moreover, the dominance of bladelets with curved profiles in Kostenki/LVA was used as an argument to associate it with the Early Aurignacian by Dinnis et al. (2019) and with a Roc-de-Combe Aurignacian with Early Aurignacian features by others (Sinitsyn, 2003;Zwyns and Flas, 2010). In fact, empirical studies of Aurignacian assemblages over the last decade have revealed technotypological overlaps between purported chronocultural stages of the technocomplex and rejected the validity of the Aquitaine model for regions outside of the core area (e.g., Sitlivy et al., 2012;Tafelmaier, 2017;Falcucci, 2018;Riel-Salvatore and Negrino, 2018a,b). ...
Article
With great interest, we read the new study on early Upper Palaeolithic assemblages of the Kostenki region conducted by Dinnis et al. (2019). In this reply, we point out analytical and interpretative inconsistencies we found in that article. Dinnis et al. (2019) associated the early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) assemblages from the three Central Russian sites Kostenki 1, 14 and 17 with the Aurignacian four-phase model developed in Southwestern Europe. Thus, Dinnis et al. (2019) assigned the EUP assemblage from Kostenki 17 layer II to the Protoaurignacian and Kostenki 1/III as well as Kostenki 14/layer in volcanic ash (LVA; ~40 ka cal BP) to the Early Aurignacian. By doing so the authors promoted a unidirectional expansion of modern humans from the southeast into Europe. Moreover, they assumed a pan-European validity of the Aquitaine model, neglecting regional peculiarities and developments during the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition. In our view, the Protoaurignacian association of Kostenki 17/II and the general adoption of the Western European chronocultural system fails due to severe technological and typological inconsistencies.
... New data supplied from the Kostenki-Borshchevo area on the Don River partly reflect these general Eu-ropean trends but also show strong evidence of local development. The lowermost cultural layers at Kostenki 14-Markina Gora provide a radiocarbon age around 40,000−37,000 cal BP, whereas the stratigraphic and paleomagnetic data suggest an even earlier age, prior to the Campanian tephra deposition (Sinitsyn 2003(Sinitsyn , 2010. At Kostenki 17, the Spitsynian provided another variety of this complex, dated from 40,000 / 38,000-35,000 / 32,000 cal BP (Anikovich et al. 2007(Anikovich et al. , 2008. ...
... The 2012-14 excavations at Dolní Věstonice and Pavlov contribute new evidence of these early Gravettian stages (Svoboda et al., in press). On the Don River, the earliest Gravettian (Kostenki 8) occured in a complex situation created by cultural entitites such as Streletskian and Gorodtsovian (Anikovich et al. 2007;Sinitsyn 2010) and later expanded and created several distinct traditions. ...
... Layer I contains an assemblage combining the technological and morphological features of the local Middle and Upper Palaeolithic (Stepanchuk, 2019). 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. ...
Article
Full-text available
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.
... ka cal BP) at, e.g., Khotylevo 2 (Gavrilov et al., 2015). Further northeast, in the Kostenki-Borshchevo site complex, Gravettian is documented at Kostenki 8, Cultural Layer II, with an early Gravettian dated to ~27.7 ka uncal BP (~31.6 ka cal BP) (e.g., Sinitsyn 2015), and then especially as a late Gravettian (Willendorf-Kostenkian or Willendorf-Kostenki-Avdeevo culture) at sites including Borshchevo 5, Cultural Layers 1a and 1b, Kostenki 14, Cultural Layer I (e.g., Sinitsyn, 1996), Kostenki 1, Cultural Layer I, Kostenki 4, Cultural Layer II, Kostenki 21, Cultural Layer III, Kostenki 11, Cultural Layer II (e.g., Lisitsyn, 2015;Reynolds et al., 2015;Sinitsyn, 2010;. The onset of the Gravettian between 28 and 27 ka uncal BP (31.8 and 31.1 ka cal BP) in the Kostenki-Borshchevo region is slightly earlier than at Mitoc-Malu Galben, but comparable to or later than what is known from other regions of Europe. ...
Article
Full-text available
This paper presents preliminary results of fieldwork conducted at the Upper Palaeolithic open-air site Mitoc-Malu Galben in northeastern Romania. The site has a ∼14m deep loess-paleosol sequence with a rather high climatic resolution. The chronostratigraphy is well established and embedded in this long sequence are abundant archaeological remains, mostly attributed to the Aurignacian and Gravettian. Our fieldwork between 2013 and 2016 provided new samples of the main Aurignacian and Gravettian layers. Here we provide an overview of our fieldwork activities, the generated archaeological collections, and present a preliminary analysis of raw material economy and blank production and core exploitation strategies of the Gravettian assemblages. We also discuss the Mitoc-Malu Galben Gravettian in its wider regional context and implications for the Aurignacian-Gravettian transition.
... Attempts of the more detailed subdivision of geological deposits and archeological evolution were made in the last decade (Velichko et al., 2009;Anikovich et al., 2007;Sinitsyn, 2010) inside of which current symposium hopes to be favorable. ...
Book
Full-text available
The Guidebook presents the morphological, micromorphological, chemical and physical characteristics of Late Pleistocene and Holocene soils of the Central Chernozemic zone (Kursk and Voronezh regions). The information on the modern environmental conditions of the Central Russian Upland is also provided. The environmental dynamics of the area are presented together with the brief history of the study and characterization for Aleksandrov quarry, Senovaya balka, soil-alluvial series on the high floodplain of Don River, Holocene Chernozem, archaeological sites Kostenky and Divnogorie. The Guidebook contains the general summary of the natural, cultural and historical sites visited during field tours – Central-Chernozemic Biosphere Reserve, Museum Kostenki, natural and architectural museum-resort Divnogorie, monastery Korennaya Pustyn, and World War II military memorial. The book is of interest to geographers, soil scientists, paleopedologists and archaeologists.
... This is not the most recent chronology known for the Crimean sites, but at the same time this chronology allow to attribute Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) layers IIIa and III to the late phase of development of the local Middle Paleolithic. This population already coexisted with the earliest groups of anatomically modern humans in the East European plain and Crimea (Marks and Monigal, 2000;Anikovich et al., 2007;Vishnyatsky, 2008;Sinitsyn, 2010;Hoffecker, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Located in Eastern Crimea, the multilayered site of Zaskalnaya VI (Kolosovskaya) represents an important key Middle Palaeolithic site of the Crimean peninsula. The uppermost unit of cultural layers of the site (layers IIIa, III, II, and I) pertains to the final stage of the Middle Paleolithic development. The richness and good preservation of various evidence of human activity and remains of material culture allow exploration of many important aspects of the period often referred as “the time of the last Neanderthals”. One important aspect of Zaskalnaya VI is the bone remains of Neanderthals, especially numerous in layers IIIa and III. One of two main focuses of this report is the presentation of anthropological data, with particular emphasis on the detailed odontological characterization of mandibles Zsk VI-72 and Zsk VI-78. The examined odontological complex is characterized by a set of morphological features and variations which are common for the line of Transition Neanderthals. Another focus of the paper is aimed at a wider presentation of data provided by layers IIIa and III, including the history of study, general stratigraphy and some peculiar stratigraphic and spatial features of layers IIIa and III, data on numerical chronology, technical and typological features of stone and bone industry, use-wear analysis data, paleontological and archaeozoological characteristics and other related evidence.
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The Streletskian is central to understanding the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic on the East European Plain. Early Streletskian assemblages are frequently seen as marking the Neanderthal-anatomically modern human (AMH) anthropological transition, as well as the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic archaeological transition. The age of key Streletskian assemblages, however, remains unclear, and there are outstanding questions over how they relate to Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic facies. The three oldest Streletskian layers—Kostenki 1 Layer V, Kostenki 6 and Kostenki 12 Layer III—were excavated by A. N. Rogachev in the mid-20th century. Here, we re-examine these layers in light of problems noted during Rogachev’s campaigns and later excavations. Layer V in the northern part of Kostenki 1 is the most likely assemblage to be unmixed. A new radiocarbon date of 35,100 ± 500 BP (OxA- X-2717-21) for this assemblage agrees with Rogachev’s stratigraphic interpretation and contradicts later claims of a younger age. More ancient radiocarbon dates for Kostenki 1 Layer V are from areas lacking diagnostic Streletskian points. The Kostenki 6 assemblage’s stratigraphic context is extremely poor, but new radiocarbon dates are consistent with Rogachev’s view that the archaeological material was deposited prior to the CI tephra (i.e. >34.3 ka BP). Multiple lines of evidence indicate that Kostenki 12 Layer III contains material of different ages. Despite some uncertainty over the precise relationship between the dated sample and diagnostic lithic material, Kostenki 1 Layer V (North) therefore currently provides the best age estimate for an early Streletskian context. This age is younger than fully Upper Palaeolithic assemblages elsewhere at Kostenki. Other “Streletskian” assemblages and Streletskian points from younger contexts at Kostenki are briefly reviewed, with possible explanations for their chronostratigraphic distribution considered. We caution that the cultural taxon Streletskian should not be applied to assemblages based simply on the presence of bifacially worked artefacts.
Chapter
Interpretations of the European Upper Paleolithic archaeological record have long relied on concepts of past populations. In particular, cultural taxonomic units—which are used as a framework for describing the archaeological record—are commonly equated with past populations. However, our cultural taxonomy is highly historically contingent, and does not necessarily accurately reflect variation in the archaeological record. Furthermore, we lack a secure theoretical basis for the description of past human populations based on taxonomic units. In order to move past these problems and satisfactorily address questions of Upper Paleolithic populations, we need to entirely revise our approach to chronocultural framework building. Here, I outline a specific way of describing the archaeological record that deliberately avoids the use of cultural taxonomic units and instead concentrates on individual features of material culture. This approach may provide a more appropriate basis for the archaeological study of Upper Paleolithic populations and for comparisons with genetic data.
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A fundamental element of Upper Palaeolithic archaeological practice is cultural taxonomy—the definition and description of taxonomic units that group assemblages according to their material culture and geographic and chronological distributions. The derived taxonomies, such as Aurignacian, Gravettian and Magdalenian, are used as units of analysis in many research questions and interpretations. The evidential and theoretical bases defining these taxonomic units, however, are generally lacking. Here, the authors review the current state of Upper Palaeolithic cultural taxonomy and make recommendations for the long-term improvement of the situation.
Similarity and distinction of the Kara-Bom stratum and Initial Upper Palaeolithic of Eastern Europe
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