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Hunter-Gatherer Pottery and Charred Residue Dating: New Results on Early Ceramics in the North Eurasian Forest Zone

Abstract

This article discusses 18 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates from the peat bog sites Sakhtysh 2a, Ozerki 5, and Ozerki 17 in the Upper Volga region. The aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the emergence and dispersal of early ceramic traditions in northern Eurasia and their connection to the Baltic. With 1 exception, all dates were obtained from charred residue adhering to the sherd. A possible reservoir effect was tested on 1 piece of pottery from Sakhtysh 2a by taking 1 sample from charred residue, and another sample from plant fiber remains. Although a reservoir effect was able to be ruled out in this particular case, 4 other dates from Sakhtysh 2a and Ozerki 5 seem too old on typological grounds and might have been affected by freshwater reservoir effects. Considering all other reliable dates, the Early Neolithic Upper Volga culture, and with it the adoption of ceramics, in the forest zone of European Russia started around 6000 cal BC. © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.
Radiocarbon, 54 (3-4), 2012, 1033-1048.
HUNTER-GATHERER POTTERY AND CHARRED RESIDUE DATING: NEW
RESULTS ON EARLY CERAMICS IN THE NORTH EURASIAN FOREST ZONE
Sonke H artz1 • Elena Kostyleva2 • Henny Piezonka3 Thomas Terberger3 N atalya Tsydenova4
Mikhail G Zhilin5
AB S TRAC T . This article discusses 18 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates from the peat bog sites
Sakhtysh 2a, Ozerki 5, and Ozerki 17 in the Upper Volga region. The aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the
emergence and dispersal of early ceramic traditions in northern Eurasia and their connection to the Baltic. With 1 exception,
all dates were obtained from charred residue adhering to the sherd. A possible reservoir effect was tested on 1 piece of pottery
from Sakhtysh 2a by taking 1 sample from charred residue, and another sample from plant fiber remains. Although a reservoir
effect was able to be ruled out in this particular case, 4 other dates from Sakhtysh 2a and Ozerki 5 seem too old on typological
grounds and might have been affected by freshwater reservoir effects. Considering all other reliable dates, the Early Neolithic
Upper Volga culture, and with it the adoption o f ceramics, in the forest zone o f European Russia started around 6000 cal BC.
BACKGROUND: HUNTER-GATHERER CERAMICS IN NORTHERN EURASIA
Early ceramic traditions of eastern Europe play a key role for our understanding o f Stone Age cultural
contacts and technological transfer between east and west. These traditions are characterized by a
specific, often pointed-base pottery, and by the hunter-gatherer economy o f their bearers. Potteiy is
seen as the main defining marker o f the Neolithic period in this region (Oshibkina 2006), while in
central and western Europe, a different definition of the Neolithic based on a food-producing econ
omy is preferred (Scharl 2004). This article follows the local,eastern” terminology. There is increas
ing evidence that ceramics from eastern Europe stimulated the onset o f pottery production further
west and that the new technology reached the southern Baltic coast in the 5th m illennium cal BC. The
appearance o f this pottery was not, as has been previously thought, triggered by influences from
Neolithic farming communities further south but rather represents an independent development, the
roots of which must be sought further east in the vast expanses of the northern Eurasian landmass
(Timofeev 1998; Klassen 2004:109-17; Gronenbom 2009; Jordan and Zvelebil 2009:33-7).
Starting in the first half of the 7th millennium cal BC, the early pottery o f the Russian forest steppe
in the lower Volga region belongs to the oldest ceramic traditions on the European continent, even
predating the introduction of ceramics into mainland southeastern Europe (Zaitseva et al. 2008;
Dolukhanov et al. 2009:239-40; Muller 2009:63-4). Towards the end o f the 7th millennium cal BC,
the new technology had dispersed into the forest zone where in central Russia an early center of
ceramic production emerged (Nikitin 2008:257-8). In the region between the Volga and Oka rivers,
the Mesolithic Butovo culture terminated around 6000 cal BC w ith the transition to the Early
Neolithic Upper Volga culture, which was the first pottery-bearing culture in this region. The Upper
Volga culture is divided into 3 stages and ended around 5000 cal BC with the transition to the Mid
dle and Late Neolithic Lyalovo culture, which formed part of the larger entity o f pit-comb ware cul
tures subsequently spreading across much of the eastern European forest zone (Engovatova et al.
1 Archaeological State Museum, Foundation Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesmuseen, Gottorf Palace, 24837 Schleswig, Ger
many. Corresponding author. Email: hartz@schloss-gottorf.de.
2Historical Faculty, State University Ivanovo, 5 Timiryazev S t., 153025 Ivanovo, Russian Federation.
3Historical Institute, Department of Pre- and Protohistory, Ernst-Moritz-Amdt University Greifswald, Hans-Fallada-Strasse
1, 17487 Greifswald, Germany.
••Laboratory of Archaeology, Institute o f Mongolian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 6 Sakhy-
anovoi St., 670047 Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, Russian Federation.
in stitu te of Archaeology, Russian Academy o f Sciences, 19 Dmitri Ulyanov S t., 117036 Moscow, Russian Federation.
© 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona
Proceedings of the 6th International Radiocarbon and Archaeology Symposium, edited by E Boaretto and N R Rebollo Franco
RADIOCARBON, Vol 54. Nr 3-4, 2012, p 1033-1048
1033
1034 SHartz et al.
1998). This culture is subdivided into 4 stages (archaic, early, middle and late) and existed up until
~3900 cal BC (Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2010:181-2). Our understanding of the absolute chronol
ogy of the dispersal and early development of the first ceramics in the Volga-Oka region, however,
has been solely based on conventional radiocarbon dates, most of which derived from contextual
material such as peat, worked wood, charcoal, and bone. Only very recently a number of conven
tional 14C dates were received for pottery crust in exceptional cases where large amounts of charred
residue adhering to the sherds made conventional dating possible (Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008,
2010). In a number of regions of European Russia, conventional 14C dates are produced by using
entire pottery fragments as samples (cf. Zaitseva et al. 2008:218). The reliability of these dates,
however, is still under discussion because sometimes systematic differences compared to context
dates have been noticed (Nikitin 2008:257). Altogether, the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS)
method with its small sample size provides a valuable opportunity to test, refine, and, where neces
sary, correct current ideas on pottery development on the basis of direct dates for individual ceramic
vessel units.
A controversial debate concerns the introduction of the first ceramics further east as a result either
of cultural contacts or of independent inventions (Kuzmin and Vetrov 2007:15-6; Jordan and
Zvelebil 2009:68-75). In southern China, the earliest ceramic vessels were already produced
between ~16,350 and 15,550 cal BC (Boaretto et al. 2009). In the Late Glacial, pottery began to be
used on the Japanese archipelago between ~14,800 and 13,750 cal BC (Keally et al. 2004; Kudo
2004; Yoshida et al. 2004), and in the Amur Basin of the Russian Far East the new technology
became known between ~14,550 and 12,150 cal BC (Kuzmin 2006, 2010).
The region east of Lake Baikal is claimed to provide some of the earliest assemblages with pottery
outside these initial ceramic-producing centers (Kuzmin and Orlova 2000; Kuzmin 2006, 2010; Jor
dan and Zvelebil 2009:69). Among the most important sites are the monuments of the Ust-Karenga
cluster at the confluence of the Vitim and Karenga rivers. These sites have produced a series of 14C
dates for the Early Neolithic layer that reach back into the Late Paleolithic (Kuzmin and Vetrov
2007). While the charcoal dates for layer 7 show a larger range of results, 3 dates on foodcrust sam
ples indicate an onset of pottery production at Ust-Karenga in the late Allerad period (~11,000 cal
BC). Comparatively early dates in the later 12th and the 11th millennium cal BC are also reported
from pottery-bearing layers at Ust-Kyakhta on the right bank of the Selenga River close to the Rus-
sian-Mongolian border, and from Studenoe 1 on the right bank of the Chikoi River in the southern
part of Transbaikalia (McKenzie 2009:181-3). However, the reliability of the early dates from Ust-
Kyakhta and Studenoe 1 obtained on charcoal and soil samples is still subject to debate (Kuzmin and
Vetrov 2007; McKenzie 2009:181, 183).
In western Siberia and the eastern Urals, the earliest pottery-bearing contexts date to the second half
of the 7th millennium cal BC (Timofeev et al. 2004:47-8; Chairkina and Kosinskaya 2009).
AIMS AND METHODS
Recently, a Russian-German research team has started to take a systematic approach to improve the
absolute chronology of the early hunter-gatherer ceramics. The authors initiated a program on direct
AMS 14C dating of organic objects and charred residue (foodcrust, soot coating) adhering to the pot
tery fragments themselves. It is the idea to establish series of AMS dates on pottery from key sites
ranging from the eastern Baltic across the Upper Volga and the Urals area to the Transbaikal region
in Siberia in the east. For the Baltic, important steps forward have been taken in this respect in recent
years, resulting in a net of direct dates on early hunter-gatherer ceramics that has become already
rather dense in regions such as Fennoscandia (Hallgren 2004; Skandfer 2005; Piezonka 2008;
New Results on Early Ceramics in North Eurasian Forest Zone 1035
Pesonen and Leskinen 2009). In Russia, too, efforts to produce direct 14C dates for the earliest pot
tery have intensified (e.g. Kuzmin and Vetrov 2007; Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008, 2010; Kar
manov et al., these proceedings). The AMS method is especially well suited to draw a more reliable
and detailed picture of the typological and regional developments of early ceramics. At the same
time, it provides the opportunity to combine the analysis of the samples for dating with the analysis
of stable isotopes, thus furnishing additional information not only on pottery functions and on the
diet and subsistence strategies of the manufacturers, but also on possible reservoir effects influenc
ing the dating results (Philippsen et al. 2010).
In this paper, a series of 18 new AMS 14C dates of organic residues on pottery from 3 central Russian
sites are discussed against the background of the dispersal of ceramic technology in northern Eur
asia and the further development of early hunter-gatherer pottery styles after its initial introduction
(Table 1; Figures 1 and 2). Twelve samples from Sakhtysh 2a and Ozerki 17 were analyzed and
dated at the Leibniz Laboratory for Age Determination and Isotope Analysis of Kiel University,
Germany, and 6 samples from Ozerki 5 were dated at the AMS 14C Dating Centre of Aarhus Uni
versity, Denmark. Sample preparation followed international standards (e.g. Olsen et al. 2010). Only
the 513C values for Ozerki 5 were determined by mass spectrometry.
Figure 1 Eurasian sites with early ceramics from which residue on pottery was AMS dated during the project (map
base: German Archaeological Institute, Eurasia Department).
NEW AMS DATES OF HUNTER-GATHERER POTTERY FROM THE UPPER VOLGA REGION
Sakhtysh 2a
The Sakhtysh peat bog is located in the Teikovo district of the Ivanovo region in the central part of
European Russia (Figure 1). Thick accumulations of archaeological materials on several locations
along an ancient lake shore attest to various chronological stages from the early Mesolithic to the
early Iron Age. Scientific investigations of the Sakhtysh complex began in the 1960s and have since
revealed large amounts of early pottery in close association with a rich flint industry and a variety
of animal bones, charcoal, wood, and other organic finds. A series of conventional 14C datings were
conducted, including conventional dates from samples of charred crust adhering to pottery
(Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008).
Table 1 AMS samples with context information and dating results.3 Note: 513C values from Kiel laboratory (KIA dates): were obtained during
AMS dating.______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Site Context Material
Sample size
(mg o f C) Lab nr
14C age
(BP)
513C
(%o)
Age cal BC
(95.4%)
Sakhtysh 2a Trench 2004, sq. 25, depth 2.94 m, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 10.2 K IA 39310 7356 ±30 -29.03 6354-6089
Trench 1999, sq. 14, depth 2.66 m, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 10.0 K IA 39311 7072 ±36 -24.08 6020-5886
Trench 2004, sq. 11, depth 2.44 m, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 7.2 KIA 39309 7037 ± 27 -20.10 5991-5846
Trench 2004, sq. 18, depth 2.48 m, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 9.0 KIA 39308 7018 ±45 -20.91 6000-5792
Sq. 25, depth 2.49 m, layer Ilg (same sherd as
K IA 39301)
Plant (willow string) on
pottery
4.7 KIA 39300 6847 ±31 -26.88 5801-5662
Sq. 25, depth 2.49 m, layer Ilg (same sherd as
KIA 39300)
Charred residue on pottery 12.1 KIA 39301 6860 ±31 -24.43 5835-5668
Trench 2004, sq. 29, depth 2.58 m, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 9.7 K IA 39312 6395 ± 2 8 -26.70 5469-5319
Trench 2004, layer Ilg Charred residue on pottery 4.2 K IA 39313 6371 ±30 -26.49 5468-5304
Trench 2004, sq. 32, depth 2.23 m, layer lib Charred residue on pottery 9.7 KIA 39303 6348 ±2 6 -23.37 5463-5226
Trench 2004, sq. 32, depth 2.13 m, layer lib Charred residue on pottery 12.9 KIA 39302 6160 ± 2 7 -25.01 5213-5029
Ozerki 5 Trench 1994, sq. 150, depth 0.83 m, layer II Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14545 7412 ±28 -30.05 6372-6231
Trench 1990, layer II (western part) Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14542 7010 ±33 -29.68 5987-5811
Trench 1994, sq. 137, depth 1.18m, layer Ha
(II)
Trench 1994, sq. 137, depth 1.06 m, layer Ha
Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14544 6528 ± 2 7 -27.09 5550-5468
Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14543 6479 ±26 -27.40 5486-5373
Trench 1993, sq. 103, depth 1.25 m, layerl Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14541 5971 ±25 -27.96 4935^1791
Trench 1993, sq. 105, depth 1.49 m, layerl Charred residue on pottery Not specified AAR 14540 5898 ±25 -31.62 4831^1715
Ozerki 17 Excavations 1991-1993, layer III Charred residue on pottery 11.3 KIA 39306 6369 ±2 7 -28.47 5466-5304
Trench 1992, sq. 38, depth 2.30-2.32 m,
layer II
Charred residue on pottery 11.9 KIA 39307 5693 ±29 -25.55 4605^1457
Krasnaya Gorka Trench 1, layer 2 Charred residue on pottery 0.7 KIA 42073 8345 ± 6 6 -25.08 7541-7187
aDates calibrated using OxCal v 4.1 (Bronk Ramsey et al. 2009) and the IntCal09 curve data (Reimer et al. 2009).
1036 SHartzetal.
1037 SHartz et al.
Figure 2 Calibrated AMS dating results of the samples from Sakhtysh 2a, Ozerki 5,
Ozerki 17, and Krasnaya Gorka. Calibration was conducted using OxCal v 4.1 (Bronk
Ramsey 2009) and IntCal09 data (Reimer et al. 2009).
Sakhtysh 2a is a Mesolithic-Neolithic settlement site with clearly stratified Neolithic layers in its
peat bog part. The stratigraphy reaches a height of ~2 m (Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008:8-9).
Eight lithological layers can be distinguished, 2 of which contain Early Neolithic cultural remains.
In the brown peat of lithological layer 5, ceramics of the developed Upper Volga culture were found
that are decorated with imprints of cord imitations, short comb stamps, and stitch-and-furrow lines.
Slight differences between the top and the bottom part of this stratum were noticed. In the upper sec
tion (cultural horizon IIa and b), the ceramic fragments are characterized by chamotte temper and a
dense arrangement of the decoration zones, while in the lower part (cultural horizon IIv), the orna
ments are more widely spaced. Here, some unornamented pottery fragments have also been found.
The earliest pottery belonging to the early phase of the Upper Volga culture is found in a layer of
greenish-brown peat (cultural horizon IIg). In the top part of this stratum, the remains of 5 to 7 ves
sels with pricked decoration were discovered, while most of the pottery came from the middle and
lower parts of the layer.
Ten AMS dates resulted for samples taken from Sakhtysh 2a pottery (Table 1; Figures 2, 3, 4). Very
valuable for the understanding of both the site stratigraphy and the early ceramic typology of the
Upper Volga culture are 4 dates with 14C ages older than 7000 BP (KIA 39310: 7356 ± 30 BP, Figure
3: 4; KIA 39311: 7072 ± 36, Figure 3: 3; KIA 39309: 7037 ± 27 BP, Figure 3: 5; KIA 39308: 7018 ±
45 BP, Figure 3: 6; Table 1). The samples stem from layer IIg, which is the earliest horizon with
Neolithic materials on this site. Typologically, the 4 sherds represent characteristic examples of the
1038 SHartz et al.
early phase of the Upper Volga culture (cf. Kostyleva 1994): 2 rim sherds display simple ornaments
comprised of small dots and notches, 1 rim sherd is undecorated, and the base sherd stems from a
flat bottom. Three of the dates cover a narrow range from 6020 to 5792 cal BC. The fourth date
(KIA 39310), however, is ~300 14C yr older. This potsherd produced the lowest 513C value of all
Sakhtysh 2a samples (-29.03%o), and this might indicate a special vessel content involving fish or
mollusks, resulting in a date too old for the pot due to a freshwater reservoir effect (Fischer et al.
2007; Olsen et al. 2010; Philippsen et al. 2010).
Figure 3 Sakhtysh 2a, Ivanovo region, Russia. Fragments of pottery from which AMS samples were taken: 1)
KIA 39302 (6160 ± 27 BP); 2) KIA 39303 (6348 ± 26 BP); 3) KIA 39311 (7072 ± 36 BP); 4) KIA 39310
(7356 ± 30 BP); 5) KIA 39309 (7037 ± 27 BP); 6) KIA 39308 (7018 ± 45 BP); 7) KIA 30301 (6860 ± 31 BP)
and KIA 39300 (6847 ± 31 BP); 8) KIA 39312 (6395 ± 28 BP); 9) KIA 39313 (6371 ± 30 BP) (photos: S Hartz).
The next 2 dates (KIA 30301: 6860 ± 31 BP; KIA 39300: 6847 ± 31 BP) stem from the same undec
orated rim sherd also excavated in layer IIg (Figure 3: 7). One sample was taken from the charred
residue adhering to the sherd, and the other from a piece of willow string that was embedded in the
charred crust. This sampling strategy offered the opportunity to test a possible reservoir effect of the
charred crust by the wood sample. In contrast to Fischer and Heinemeier (2003) and Boudin et al.
(2009), who observed remarkable reservoir effects in foodcrust dates from Danish and Belgian
New Results on Early Ceramics in North Eurasian Forest Zone 1039
A * -
chi
rred resdue
K IA 3 9 3 1 0
73 5 6 ±3 9 B P
K IA 3 9 3 1 1
70 7 2 ±3 6 B P
K IA 3 9 3 0 9
703 7 ±2 7 B P
K IA 3 9 3 0 8
70 1 8 ±4 5 B P
G I N 1 29 8 6
69 6 0 ±4 0 B P
G I N 1 29 8 7
68 5 9 ±110 B P
K IA 3 9 3 0 1
68 6 0 ±31 B P
K IA 3 0 3 0 0
685 7 ±31 B P
G I N 1 29 8 5
68 3 0 ±40 B P
G I N 1 29 8 8
67 6 0 ±110 B P
G I N 1 29 8 9
66 5 0 ± 1 0 0 BP
G I N 1 09 2 4
65 0 0 ± 1 0 0 BP
K IA 3 9 3 1 2
63 9 5 ±2 8 B P
K IA 3 9 3 1 3
63 7 1 ±3 0 B P
K IA 3 9 3 0 3
634 8 ±2 6 B P
G I N 1 09 2 3
6 2 3 0 ± 5 0 B P
K I A 3 93 0 2
61 6 0 ±2 7 B P
chi rred resdue
chi
rred rewJue
chi
rredrewjue
wo
«Sen pole
chi rred residue
k .
chi rred residue
Wll
vm string
fie) trap
ch
rred residue
ch rred rescue
rred rescue
chi
rred rescue
chi rred residue
chi
rred residue
________
chi
rred rescue
6500 6000 5500 5000 4000 cal B C
Figure 4 Sakhtysh 2a, Ivanovo region, Russia. New AMS dates against the background of
existing conventional 14C dates (GIN dates: after Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008: Table 2).
Stone Age pottery, the 2 dates from Sakhtysh 2a are very similar, showing no reservoir effect and
dating the pottery fragment to a time bracket between 5835 and 5662 cal BC.
There are 3 dates (KIA 39312: 6395 ± 28 BP, Figure 3: 8; KIA 39313: 6371 ± 30 BP, Figure 3: 9;
KIA 39303: 6348 ± 26 BP, Figure 3: 2) forming a younger cluster in the third quarter of the 6th mil
lennium cal BC. The samples stem from charred residue on decorated rim sherds that display typo
logical features of the developed Upper Volga culture such as rows of conical pits and other small
impressions, and long as well as short comb stamps. While the 2 older samples were found in cul
tural layer IIg, the slightly younger specimen originated in layer IIb. From this stratum also stems
the youngest sample in the AMS dating sequence from Sakhtysh 2a (KIA 39302: 6160 ± 27 BP, Fig
ure 3: 1), which falls in the last quarter of the 6th millennium cal BC. This rim sherd displays the
typical comb impression ornaments of the late Upper Volga culture pottery.
To sum up, the new AMS dates from Sakhtysh 2a cover the entire existence of the Upper Volga cul
ture. The earliest date suggests the start of pottery production already at ~6300 cal BC. But because
this date is isolated and related to the lowest 513C value, we give the younger cluster of 3 dates more
confidence. The start of the initial pottery phase is thus dated to ~6000 cal BC. The reliability of
these dates is corroborated by 2 results from the same pot, where a reservoir effect can definitely be
ruled out. The subsequent AMS dates are in accordance with the pottery typology and help to
describe the developments in more detail and precision.
1040 S Hartz et al.
Ozerki 5
The Ozerki peat bog in the Konakovo district of the Tver region is situated in the western part of the
Upper Volga area (Figure 1). It has yielded numerous multilayered archaeological sites, among them
more than 20 with Stone Age evidence. On 3 of them, Ozerki 5, 16, and 17, layers of the Early
Neolithic Upper Volga culture have been discovered. These sites were excavated from 1990 to 1995
(Zhilin 1994, 1996, 2006). They had been occupied during regression phases of an ancient lake that
later turned into the peat bog. The cultural layers had been originally covered by more than 5 m of
peat, which was only in modern times partly removed during peat cutting.
A trench of ~200 m2 was excavated at Ozerki 5 in 1990-1995, and 4 cultural layers were distin
guished at the site. The uppermost layer (I), which has been severely disturbed during peat cutting,
contained Middle Neolithic materials including pit-and-comb pottery. The second cultural layer (II)
belongs to the middle Atlantic period according to pollen analysis and conventional 14C dates (Zhi
lin et al. 1998). In this horizon, traces of fireplaces and clusters of finds were discovered, consisting
mainly of a rich flint inventory and ceramic fragments. In the upper part of horizon II, pottery tem
pered with ground granite of the early Lyalovo culture was found together with ceramics and other
cultural remains of the late phase of the Upper Volga culture. The lower part of this cultural layer
(IIa) produced pottery of the middle stage of the Upper Volga culture, which is tempered with fine
sand, chamotte, and organic admixture and decorated with horizontal rows and oblique lines of
imprints. The third cultural layer (III) was distributed in the eastern part of the excavation, where
cultural layer II was absent. It is dated to the first half of the Atlantic by pollen analysis. The abun
dant ceramic fragments from this stratum are tempered with ground sherds, sand, and organic mat
ter; their outer surface has been polished. While most of the fragments were unornamented, some
had been decorated with back-stepped imprints typical for the early stage of the Upper Volga cul
ture. However, the most ancient pottery of the Upper Volga culture, similar to the type discovered at
Sakhtysh 2a (see above), was not found. Cultural layer III overlies layer IV of the Mesolithic Butovo
culture without any sterile streak in between.
One of the 6 AMS samples from Ozerki 5 (AAR 14545: 7412 ± 28 BP, Figure 5: 2) has produced a
similarly old date as the oldest sample from Sakhtysh 2a (see Figure 2; Table 1). The dated potsherd
stems from layer II and would on typological (long oblique comb stamps) and stratigraphic grounds
be attributed to a more developed phase of the Upper Volga culture. The next result was retrieved for
a large potsherd from the same layer, decorated with multidirectional comb stamps and pit-like
impressions, and is remarkably younger (AAR 14542: 7010 ± 33 BP, Figure 5: 4). While the 14C
date places this sample in the group with the 3 early Upper Volga culture sherds from Sakhtysh 2a
dated to the beginning of the 6th millennium cal BC (see above), typologically it resembles late
Upper Volga culture ceramics, an attribution that is also confirmed by its stratigraphic position. Two
dates around the middle of the 6th millennium cal BC were retrieved from charred residue on pot
sherds from layer IIa, which are also ornamented with oblique comb impressions (AAR 14544:
6528 ± 27 BP, Figure 5: 3; AAR 14543: 6479 ± 26 BP, Figure 5: 1). The results are in accordance
with the expected age for this type of developed Upper Volga culture pottery and also with a con
ventional 14C date that was retrieved from layer IIa (GIN 7215: 6450 ± 160 BP; Engovatova et al.
1998:17). Two dates of the Ozerki samples yielded results in the first half of the 5th millennium cal
BC. Both of the sampled sherds were found in layer I, which is associated with middle to late
Neolithic Lyalovo culture materials. The pit-comb decorated fragment that produced the slightly
older result (AAR 14541: 5971 ± 25 BP, Figure 5: 5) represents a typical example of early Lyalovo
pottery. The other sherd is ornamented with widely spaced pits (AAR 14540: 5898 ± 25 BP,
Figure 5: 6) and typologically belongs to the late Lyalovo culture.
New Results on Early Ceramics in North Eurasian Forest Zone 1041
Figure 5 Ozerki 5, Tver region, Russia. Fragments of pottery from which AMS samples were taken:
1) AAR 14543 (6479 ± 26 BP); 2) AAR 14545 (7412 ± 28 BP); 3) AAR 14544 (6528 ± 27 BP); 4)
AAR 14542 (7010 ± 33 BP); 5) AAR 14541 (5971 ± 25 BP); 6) AAR 14540 (5898 ± 5 BP) (photos:
S Hartz).
Among the new AMS results from Ozerki 5, the 2 oldest dates (AAR 14545, AAR 14542) appear
problematic with respect to the site stratigraphy and the established ideas on pottery development in
the Upper Volga culture. On typological grounds, both fragments would be attributed to the later
phases of the Upper Volga culture. Especially far off the expected value is the result of sample AAR
14545, which seems centuries too old even for the early Upper Volga culture. Furthermore, it con
tradicts the conventional 14C evidence for the final stage of the Mesolithic Butovo culture from the
lower layer of the same site (Zhilin 2006). The 513C values of both samples are among the lowest of
the Ozerki 5 assemblage (AAR 14545: -30.05%o; AAR 14542: -29.68%o); thus, the apparent age
offsets of ~1000 and ~500 yr, respectively, are probably caused by a freshwater reservoir effect (Fis
cher et al. 2007; Olsen et al. 2010). For the late Lyalovo sherd AAR 14540, the dating result is also
not in accordance with the expected age but ~500 14C yr too old (cf. Zaretskaya and Kostyleva
2010). As this sample produced the lowest 513C value in the Ozerki 5 series (-31.62%), this is
another case where a freshwater reservoir effect has to be taken into consideration.
1042 S Hartz et al.
Ozerki 17
Ozerki 17 is located ~30 m east of Ozerki 5 and at this site a trench of 41 m2 was excavated. The
stratigraphical sequence consists of clay sediments at the base (former lake bottom) covered by sand
and thick layers of peat. In the southern part of the excavation, the stratigraphy also included a lim-
nic gyttja. Three Neolithic and 1 Mesolithic cultural horizon were identified during excavation. The
uppermost layer (I) is situated in the lower part of a brown forest mire peat and contained some
bones and flint flakes as well as 2 fragments of Middle Neolithic pit-and-comb pottery of the
Lyalovo culture. The second cultural layer (II) is embedded in the lower part of an underlying forest
mire peat and provided a number of animal bones, a bone point, flint flakes, and fragments of comb
pottery of early Lyalovo type. Cultural horizon III coincides with a lens of forest mire sediments
mixed with sand and peat. It produced numerous animal bones, some flint artifacts and bone arrow
heads, various fishing equipment such as net floats and sinkers, and several pottery sherds of the
middle Upper Volga culture. Pollen analysis dated the layer to the early Atlantic (Zhilin et al. 1998).
Cultural horizon IV is connected to peat and gyttja layers further below and contains Mesolithic
materials of the Butovo culture.
Until recently, 14C dates were only available for the Mesolithic cultural layer of Ozerki 17 (Zhilin
1994). Two AMS samples taken from charred residue on potsherds thus provide the first absolute
dates for the Neolithic layers of the site (Table 1; Figures 6 and 2). The older date (KIA 39306:
6369 ± 27 BP) was retrieved for a large decorated rim sherd from cultural layer III. This ceramic
fragment represents a typical example of middle Upper Volga culture ware decorated by rows of
elongated notches superimposed by oblique striations (Engovatova et al. 1998:13, Figure 1). The
0 5c m
Figure 6 Ozerki 17, Tver region, Russia. Fragments of pottery from which
AMS samples were taken: 1) KIA 39306 (6369 ± 27 BP); 2) KIA 39307
(5693 ± 29 BP) (photos: S Hartz).
New Results on Early Ceramics in North Eurasian Forest Zone 1043
second date (KIA 39307: 5693 ± 29 BP) stems from charred organic residue on a typical early
Lyalovo potsherd found in layer II. Its date in the middle of the 5th millennium cal BC is in accor
dance both with the expected typological position of such ware and its stratigraphic location.
Outlook: Neolithic Pottery of the Transbaikal Region
In the course of our dating program of early pottery of the forest zone, a first sample from the multi
layer settlement site of Krasnaya Gorka in Buryatia, Transbaikalia, was obtained (Figure 1). The
AMS date was received for charred residue from an undecorated wall sherd found in cultural layer
2 (Table 1. The result of 7541-7187 cal BC (KIA-42073: 8345 ± 66 BP) verifies the general (Early)
Neolithic context of the complex. The date is substantially younger than the direct dates obtained on
early pottery from Ust-Karenga (~11,000 cal BC), thus illustrating the chronological depth of Early
Neolithic developments in this region (Tsydenova 2010). At the same time, the date from Krasnaya
Gorka suggests the existence of an established pottery production in the Transbaikal region in a
period when further west, ceramic technology had not yet been introduced. The earliest dates for
pottery complexes in the Cis-Baikal region stem from the 6th millennium cal BC and are associated
with the Kitoi mortuary tradition (McKenzie 2009:184-5). Further investigations are necessary to
elaborate the understanding of the Late Glacial initial phase of pottery production in the Transbaikal
area and to characterize the subsequent early Holocene pottery development. Direct AMS dating of
charred remains adhering to ceramics provides the important opportunity to include previously
undated complexes into a developing chronological framework of Eurasian hunter-gatherer pottery.
DISCUSSION
AMS dating of charred residues adhering to pottery fragments is a very valuable tool for understand
ing early hunter-gatherer ceramics in the Eurasian forest zone. The first results of the Russian-Ger
man dating program contribute to a better understanding of the spreading of pottery production, the
regional developments, and typological changes.
In the Upper Volga region in central European Russia, results for typologically early ceramics from
Sakhtysh 2a form a cluster and date the start of pottery production to the beginning of the 6th mil
lennium cal BC (Figure 2). One sample from Sakthysh 2a and another one from Ozerki 5, which are
both dated to ~6300 cal BC, might indicate an even earlier start of pottery use. For typological and
stratigraphic reasons, however, the reliability of these dates must be questioned and the authors
favor an interpretation of these 2 dates as outliers caused by freshwater reservoir effects. An indica
tion for this scenario could be seen in the low 513C values (Table 1; Figure 7a).
A certain amount of variation can be possible even in direct AMS dating (Fischer and Heinemeier
2003) as is also illustrated, for example, by 2 dates from 1 Early Neolithic vessel from Kalmozero
11 in Karelia (Piezonka 2008:96-8). In this case, the sample taken from charred residue adhering to
the outer surface produced a date 265 14C yr older than the sample from the inside of the pot. The
rather low 513C values are almost identical in this case (outer sample: -28.82% ; inner sample:
27.75%). In contrast to this example, the 2 samples obtained from the same pottery fragment from
Sakthysh 2a (foodcrust and willow string: KIA 39300 and KIA 39301) are in very good agreement
and argue against a (regular) reservoir effect for the foodcrust samples from this site. For further dis
cussion, it is very important to find out what was cooked in the sampled pots. Altogether, our results
confirm earlier ideas on the transition from the Mesolithic to the early Neolithic (Engovatova et al.
1998; Zhilin 2000; Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2008) and date the onset of pottery production in the
Upper Volga region to ~6000 cal BC. Further investigations are necessary to test this 6000 cal BC
boundary and to better characterize the earliest pottery phase in the Upper Volga region.
1044 S Hartz et al.
a)
cal BC
8,000
7.500
7.000
6.500
6.000
5.500
5,000
/ * *
* * *
*
-
----
'
------
----------
/ * 4 *
/ *
\ S}. /' v
-35 -30
Sakhtysh 2a
-25 -20
d 13C in %o
Ozerki 5
-------
Linear (all dates)
-15
Ozerki 17
I
-10
Ozerki 5
Linear (all dates)
Figure 7 a) 5 13C values (in %o) of all foodcrust AMS dates from Sakhtysh 2a, Ozerki 5, and
Ozerki 17 (see Table 1) including the ones too old on typological and stratigraphical grounds
(dotted line). b) 513C values (in %o) of selected AMS dates excluding dates rejected on typo
logical and stratigraphical grounds. Note: 513C values from Sakhtysh 2a and Ozerki 17 were
measured during AMS dating and are not comparable in detail to specific isotope analyses.
The new dates illuminate also the further typological development: AMS results of charred residue
samples assign the developed and late types of Upper Volga culture ceramics from Sakhtysh 2a,
Ozerki 5, and Ozerki 17 to the period shortly after the middle of the 6th millennium cal BC. Three
dates from Ozerki 5 and Ozerki 17 help to elaborate the chronology of the subsequent Middle to
Late Neolithic Lyalovo horizon (Figure 2). All 3 samples produced dates in the first half of the 5th
millennium cal BC and fall into the late archaic to early stages of the Lyalovo culture according to
the framework established based on stratigraphy and conventional 14C dating (Engovatova et al.
New Results on Early Ceramics in North Eurasian Forest Zone 1045
1998:19; Zaretskaya and Kostyleva 2010:180-2). For sherd AAR 14540, which typologically rep
resents the late Lyalovo style, the result is ~500 14C yr too old. The reason for this might be a fresh
water reservoir effect (see Figure 7a). It is important to note that in the new dates presented in this
article, there is no overlap between the dates of Upper Volga culture sherds and those of Lyalovo
ceramics, and only 1 late Upper Volga culture date from Sakhtysh 2a fills the large gap between
~5300 and ~4900 cal BC. The question whether the latest Upper Volga culture and the archaic
Lyalovo culture existed concurrently for some time, and how the transition between the 2 traditions
took place, has not yet been solved. The current state of conventional 14C chronology places the end
of the late Upper Volga culture around 4900 cal BC (~6000 BP) and the onset of the archaic phase
of the Lyalovo culture around 5150 cal BC (~6200 BP) (Engovatova et al. 1998:19; Zaretskaya and
Kostyleva 2010:180-2). The problem must be investigated by AMS dating of pottery from reliable
contexts (peat bog sites especially) where both late Upper Volga and archaic Lyalovo ceramics occur
together.
Isotope measurements including 15N as well as biochemical analyses of the charred residue are
planned in order to receive more information on diet and subsistence strategies of the pottery makers
in the forest zone. This will also better address the problem of possible freshwater reservoir effects
in the 14C dates.
Studies of central and north European material have shown that tissue of freshwater species such as
fish and mollusks is characterized by low 513C values overlapping with the typical terrestrial range
around -26% , but sometimes reaching values around -3 0 % and lower. In contrast, marine fish is
characterized by higher 513C values (Fischer and Heinemeier 2003; Philippsen 2010; for systematic
513C value differences in fatty acids of freshwater fish and marine fish and mammal species, see also
Craig et al. 2011: Figure 4A). Bone collagen of Stone Age humans and animals with a high fresh
water animal protein portion in their diet display comparatively higher 513C values due to the
trophic level shift. Thus, the very low 513C values measured in 4 charred residue samples might be
connected to the preparation of fish or mollusks in the respective pots. However, it is more reliable
to identify consumption of aquatic resources and possible reservoir effects by the combination of
513C and 515N values (Fischer and Heinemeier 2003; Fischer et al. 2007; Olsen et al. 2010; Phil
ippsen et al. 2010).
Our isotope results from Sakhtysh 2a, Ozerki 5, and Ozerki 17 obtained so far display interesting
correlations of the 513C data and the 14C ages, even though only the values from Ozerki 5 stem from
mass spectrometry. The series of the 18 Upper Volga region samples shows generally higher 513C
values for Sakhtysh 2a than for the Ozerki sites (Figure 7a). The 4 samples whose dates are several
centuries older than expected by typological and stratigraphic observations display the lowest 513C
values of the entire data set (Figure 7a). If these samples are removed, the graph displays a distinct
coherence between younger dates and lower 513C values (Figure 7b). As low 513C isotopic values
are characteristic for freshwater species (see above), an increasing exploitation of aquatic resources
might be a reasonable explanation for this picture. Systematic investigations of the 13C and 15N iso
topes from foodcrust and human samples therefore represent an important future task to obtain more
information on the development of the diet of Mesolithic and Neolithic people.
CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE PERSPECTIVES
The new AMS dating results presented in this article provide a more reliable basis to discuss the
supraregional developments and the respective cultural contexts of early ceramic traditions in Eur
asia. Eighteen samples of charred organic residues of pottery fragments from 3 sites in the central
Russian Upper Volga region indicate the beginning of Early Neolithic pottery production at 6020 to
1046 S Hartz et al.
5792 cal BC; 2 earlier dates (~6300 cal BC) are interpreted as possible outliers due to freshwater res
ervoir effects. The developed phase of the Upper Volga culture is dated to 5550 and 5468 cal BC,
and 3 dates assign pottery of the subsequent Lyalovo culture to ~4935 and 4457 cal BC. Our results
strongly suggest an earlier start of pottery production in the Upper Volga than in the Baltic region.
They are in accordance with the idea that influences of the east European forest zone have played an
important role in the formation of Mesolithic societies in the Baltic region in the early Holocene and
stimulated the adoption of pottery production in the Atlantic period (Timofeev 1998; Piezonka
2008; Hartz et al. 2010, 2011).
Pottery production in the Upper Volga region was probably stimulated from communities of the mid
dle and lower Volga (Nikitin 2008; Vybornov 2008:202-5; Zaitseva et al. 2008). At the moment,
however, it remains unclear to what extent communities further east might have influenced the emer
gence of pottery production in European Russia (Vybornov 2008:197-202). Currently, there are only
a limited number of 14C dates available, for example, for early pottery complexes of the Urals regions
and western Siberia. Work is in progress to obtain a series of AMS dates to develop a more reliable
chronology for the late Mesolithic and the Early Neolithic of the Urals and Trans-Urals. Further
research is necessary to discuss the question of possible early trajectories from east to west or inde
pendent innovations of pottery production in different regions on a more extended database.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors would like to thank the organizers of the Radiocarbon and Archaeology 6th Interna
tional Symposium in Cyprus in April 2011 for their hospitality. The German Science Foundation
kindly supported the participation of H Piezonka at the conference (DFG grant no. HA 2961/3-1).
We are deeply grateful to Gerda Henkel Foundation (grant no. AZ 01/V/10) and German Science
Foundation (DFG; grant no. HA 2961/2-1; TE 259/5-1) for financial support of the joint Russian-
German research program. For fruitful collaboration, we thank J Heinemeier and his team at the
AMS 14C Dating Center, Aarhus, and M-J Nadeau and her colleagues at the Leibniz Laboratory for
Radiometric Dating and Isotope Research, Kiel. The comments of Y Kuzmin and an anonymous
reviewer on an earlier draft helped to substantially improve this paper.
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