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The complex of Kamyana Mohyla is the westernmost rock art location of the Eurasian Steppe and the largest accumulation of cave art sites in the Eastern Europe. So far it has been believed that the complex contains the Upper Paleolithic cave art images as well as portable art collection that resemble the instances of Upper Paleolithic worldview. Though this belief lacked the support of archaeological context and chronological attribution it remained neither proved nor disputed. However, the application of digital photogrammetric tools allowed to perform the sub-millimeter surface modeling of the rock art objects and to re-examine and reconsider the engravings that were previously attributed to Pleistocene. The modeling results presented in this article revealed the complete absence of figurative images for the collection of portable art specimens and the dubious character of those for the cave art one. Therefore, the whole collection should be reconsidered, studied and attributed according to the state of the art and contemporary archaeological record in the region. This contribution attempts to think over the possible Upper Paleolithic origin of the motifs from Kamyana Mohyla in the light of new data and proposes three hypotheses towards the understanding of the rock art assemblage from one of the caves in the complex.
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Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
Please cite this article as: Simon Radchenko, Dmytro Kiosak, Quaternary International, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2022.09.008
1040-6182/© 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-
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The Upper Paleolithic rock art of Ukraine between here and nowhere
Simon Radchenko
a
,
*
, Dmytro Kiosak
b
,
c
a
Department of Historical Sciences, University of Turin, Italy
b
Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca Foscari University of Venice, Italy
c
Odesa I.I. Mechnikov National University, Ukraine
ARTICLE INFO
Keywords:
Upper paleolithic
Composite beings
Photogrammetry
Rock art
Kamyana mohyla
Ukraine
ABSTRACT
The complex of Kamyana Mohyla is the westernmost rock art location of the Eurasian Steppe and the largest
accumulation of cave art sites in the Eastern Europe. So far it has been believed that the complex contains the
Upper Paleolithic cave art images as well as portable art collection that resemble the instances of Upper
Paleolithic worldview. Though this belief lacked the support of archaeological context and chronological attri-
bution it remained neither proved nor disputed. However, the application of digital photogrammetric tools
allowed to perform the sub-millimeter surface modeling of the rock art objects and to re-examine and reconsider
the engravings that were previously attributed to Pleistocene. The modeling results presented in this article
revealed the complete absence of gurative images for the collection of portable art specimens and the dubious
character of those for the cave art one. Therefore, the whole collection should be reconsidered, studied and
attributed according to the state of the art and contemporary archaeological record in the region. This contri-
bution attempts to think over the possible Upper Paleolithic origin of the motifs from Kamyana Mohyla in the
light of new data and proposes three hypotheses towards the understanding of the rock art assemblage from one
of the caves in the complex.
1. Introduction
Despite scholars have made a giant step forward in chronological
attribution of rock art objects, we still do not have a reliable tool to
directly determine the age of petroglyphs. However, numerous
constantly-emerging novel approaches are pushing rock art researchers
to reconsider the established hypotheses in the chronological and cul-
tural attribution of the sites worldwide. They apply innovative tech-
niques and additional research efforts in order to test and re-evaluate
previous interpretation of rock art sites to conrm or invalidate them.
However, in some cases an outdated hypothesis might stuck halfway
through formulation to rejection. This is the exact case of Kamyana
Mohyla, the largest rock art complex in Ukraine.
Despite its European location, this complex is quite unique in its
history, outlook, geological structure and the appearance of rock art
objects. V. Danilenko, who provided the long-term rock art research on
the site, described the carvings from the caves referring to the concepts
of style and gurativeness of rock art objects (1986: 5157) attributing
them to Upper Paleolithic. However, both concepts appear to be
misleading as the dating evidence. Since V. Danilenko had died before
the publication of his research and there was no sapid discussion, the
hypothesis on Pleistocene origin of some Kamyana Mohyla rock art in-
stances is to be evaluated or properly examined in the future. This leads
to the slightly schizophrenic state of the art: the site of Kamyana Mohyla
is generally acknowledged to contain Upper Paleolithic depictions
(Stanko et al., 1997: 99102), however, Ukrainian scholars avoid dis-
cussing them as such, probably due to the lack of persuasive evidence
(cf. Iakovleva, 2010; Smyntyna, 1999, Stanko et al., 1999).
Such state is not healthy or good for historical discipline and should
be reconsidered, re-examined and resolved if possible. Therefore, the
aim of this article is to test the old hypothesis using new data and novel
approaches. Furthermore, we may endeavor to communicate the rock
art of Kamyana Mohyla in a relevant way that is not obsessed with
misleading concepts and traps of the past. To do this we overview the
archaeological and rock art materials in the region. Then apply digital
tools to examine the most iconic rock art objects from Kamyana Mohyla
that were considered to belong to Upper Paleolithic and test Danilenkos
arguments regarding their cultural and chronological attribution.
Finally, we indicate the new state that would resolve the ambivalent and
schizophrenic nature of ‘Upper Paleolithic Kamyana Mohyla rock art
* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: symon.radchenko@unito.it (S. Radchenko).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Quaternary International
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/quaint
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2022.09.008
Received 20 May 2022; Received in revised form 5 August 2022; Accepted 22 September 2022
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
2
and propose a set of new hypotheses to be tested in the future.
2. Materials
2.1. The Kamyana Mohyla rock art complex and its surroundings
The rock art complex of Kamyana Mohyla is located at the western
border of Eurasian Steppe Belt (Fig. 1). It originated approximately 14
million years ago, when the monadnock of soft sandstone concreted at
the bottom of Sarmatian Sea (Radchenko et al., 2020: 167). Later the
monolith broke into numerous sandstone slabs of different size that
formed a recognizable hill in Ukrainian steppes (Fig. 2) near the banks of
Molochnaya River. The hollow space between the blocks formed caves
that were used by ancient inhabitants of the region to produce rock art
engravings throughout the millennia, while the sand, the density of
sandstone and desert varnish on the slabs helped to preserve the in-
cisions. Though the caves have never been inhabited and do not contain
rich assemblages (apart from a few exceptions), most of them contained
cave art or portable rock art specimens that includes engravings some-
times covered with red ocher. 68 rock art locations were discovered so
far within the hill and its surroundings. Some engravings are exposed to
the sun outside of the caves; others are under the blocks or covered with
sand.
So-called Bulls cave(cave No. 9) and Wizards cavesupposedly
contain the Upper Paleolithic rock art motifs (No. 52). The entrance to
the former is on the Northwestern slope of the hill, while the latter oc-
cupies its Southeastern part. (Fig. 2).
The complex of Kamyana Mohyla was recognized as a unique rock
art location at the end of 19th century by N.I. Veselovskiy (1893).
Though in his report to the Emperors Archaeological Committee he
emphasized the great relevance and importance of this location, Russian
government did not made any effort to investigate the site. Later in
1910s Veselovskiy examined the hill again and found the Bulls cave.
Numerous archaeological studies and research projects performed there
in 20th century have led to the discovery of many other caves, such as
cave No. 52, rst entered during 1973 eld season.
The interpretation of Kamyana Mohyla rock art is complicated due to
the absence of any other datable material on the panels or in the lling of
the caves, the absence of archaeological context of the rock art speci-
mens and the abstract and schematic imaging for most of the caves.
However, the recent advances in digital photogrammetry have already
conrmed its efciency for particular objects of the complex (Rad-
chenko and Nykonenko, 2019; Radchenko et al., 2020) and are a
promising and informative source of information even for such a com-
plex dataset.
The archaeological study of the region proceeded simultaneously to
the rock art research process. Though it was mainly focused on the
Mesolithic (Kotova et al., 2018; Kiosak et al., 2022), Neolithic (Dan-
ilenko, 1969; Kotova et al., 2017) and Bronze Age (Makhortykh et al.,
2020) sites, some efforts were made to search for the Upper Paleolithic
locations in the Kamyana Mohyla surroundings.
2.2. Upper Paleolithic sites of the region
The Azov Sea region was settled since the Early Paleolithic (Praslov,
1968; Stepanchuk et al., 2010). The intensive Neanderthal settlement of
the adjacent Donetsk ridge and Dnieper Rapids poured out onto the
lowlands of the modern-day Azov Sea (Chabai, 2007). However, the best
represented period of the Stone Age here is the Upper Paleolithic,
especially its later part after the Last Glacial Maximum (Kitagawa et al.,
Fig. 1. Distribution of the Upper Paleolithic
sites across North Azov sea region. 1
Suren I; 2 Agy-Koba I; 3 Hatki; 4
Somova balka; 5 Velivalska balka; 6
Solone Ozero IXa; 7 Solone Ozero; 8
Solone Ozero Ia; 9 Kamyana Mohyla; 10
Sekiz I; 11 Novopavlivka; 12 Kash-
taeva balka; 13 Lysa Hora; 14 Kant-
cerka II; 15 Yamburg; 16 Kapustiana
balka; 17 Kaistrova balka; 18 Dubova
balka; 19 Vorona I; 20 Fedorivka; 21
Visla balka; 22 Rogalyk V, VI, VII, IX; 23
Hovorukha; 24 Amvrosiivka; 25
Muralovka; 26 Kamennaya Balka III.
18, 1222 after Olenkovskiy (2010); 9
after Radchenko (2022); 10 after
Mykhailov (1992); 11 after Mykhailov
(1982); 2326 after Leonova (2015).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
3
2018; Krotova, 2019). Most nds belong to Epigravettian tech-
nocomplex, sometimes with evident differences that enabled some au-
thors to propose regional groupings of the sites (Olenkovskiy, 2001;
Gorelik, 2005; Zaliznyak, 2005; Krotova, 2019).
In the immediate vicinity of the Kamyana Mohyla there are several
Upper Paleolitic sites attested: Kashtaeva Balka, Novopavlivka, Sekiz.
Only Kashtaeva Balka was published in sufcient detail (Mykhailov,
1987). There were 174 sq. m. excavated on the site. The collection
(4061 items, incl. 493 tools) consisted of cores, blades and akes. Tools
comprise burins, end-scrapers, side-scrapers, engraved tools etc. The
non-geometric microlithic assemblage includes points of gravettian
outlook (Mykhailov, 1987: 51) (according to Dmytro Kiosak, the
gravettian outlook in Mykhailovs publication mean typical backed
points), oblique truncations and points with arched back as well as a
single double truncation on a blade resembling a trapezoid. The site has
23 pieces of sandstone, which is known in the North Azov region only at
the Kamyana Mohyla hill (Mykhailov, 1987: 48). Kashtaeva Balka is
compared to the sites of Fedorivka, Solone Ozero I, Ia, IX, IXa and either
attributed to so-called North Azov Culture a particular regional aspect
of Epigravettian technocomplex (Olenkovskiy, 2001, 2010), or is treated
as a local variant of Epigravettian Kamennobalkovskaya culture, known
further in the east (Krotova, 2019: 212213). The peculiarities of these
sites are: high percentage of double burins and double end-scrapers,
constant presence of Federmesser type curved backed points and high
percentage of backed blades and bladelets with retouched ends that
make the collections look somewhat geometric. Kashtaeva Balka ts
well into this description (Olenkovskiy, 2010: 8).
The excavations at Novopavlivka (41 m
2
) yielded 81 int imple-
ments and several sandstone blocks that originate from the Kamyana
Mohyla hill (Mykhailov, 1982). The collection included some backed
points and backed bladelets, thus making it likely a part of local Epi-
gravettian. A single incomplete curved back point (Mykhailov, 1982:
Fig. 2:5) resembles the tools from the Fedorivka, Kashtaeva Balka,
Solone Ozero I and IX (Olenkovskiy, 2010, Fig. 2:16; 4:3 etc.).
The excavations at Sekiz I (96 m
2
) yielded 398 lithic artefacts
(Mykhailov, 1992). They can be attributed only provisionally so far
since only a single point (Olenkovskiy, 1992: 5758) has been reported
from this collection.
Nowadays it is evident that the critical assessment of these sites as
destroyed and redeposited(Mykhailov, 1982: 91; Olenkovskiy, 1992:
57) was a bit unreasonable. It was based partially on their low topo-
graphic position in the oodplain of Molochna river, thus on the
geomorphological forms of supposed Holocene age (Olenkovskiy, 1992:
57). However, recently a so called pro-terrace of the Late Glacial age was
detected near the small rivers owing into the Black Sea and described.
It contained some Upper Paleolithic sites (Chepalyga and Kiosak, 2014).
It would be reasonable to assume that these terraces also exist near the
rivers owing into Azov Sea so tracing them would provide a strati-
graphic basis for the preservation of the Upper Paleolithic cultural
layers.
The North Azov group of Epigravettian sites is studied relatively
well. Some sites underwent systematic excavations: Fedorivka (Krotova,
2019), Solene Ozero I, Ia, IX, IXa (Olenkovskiy, 2010).
The set of radiocarbon dates is sparse for these sites (Olenkovskiy,
2010). The dates were obtained in late 1990s early 2000s by a con-
ventional analysis of animal bone samples in Kyiv radiocarbon facility
(see Table 1). Ultraltration procedure is highly demanded (Higham
et al., 2006), especially for Pleistocene bone samples, but can also have
an effect even on the Holocene samples (Steuri et al., 2019). Kyiv lab-
oratory did not use ultraltration during the pre-treatment of samples
(Pinhasi et al., 2011, 2012) so the dates reported in Table 1 can be
younger than their real ages.
The dates were calibrated in OxCal 4.4.4 (Bronk Ramsey and Lee,
2013) with the calibration curve IntCal20 (Reimer et al., 2020). The
results are somewhat contradictory. There are two sets of dates: older
encompass 1873017462 calBP (2
σ
), while younger cluster is around
1649814962 calBP (2
σ
).
The ups-and-downs of calibration curve add up uncertainty to the
actual age of North Azov Culture sites (Fig. 3, see also Biagi et al., 2014).
On the typological grounds Kashtaeva Balka was attributed to the older
Fig. 2. Aerial view of Kamyana Mohyla (after Radchenko, 2022, Fig. 2). 1 entrance to the Bulls cave; 2 entrance to the Wizards cave.
Table 1
Radiocarbon dates for Epigravettian sites of North Azov Sea region.
No Site Lab N Age,
BP
+/Material Reference
1 Fedorivka, l2 Ki-
10354
15200 110 Animal
bone
Krotova (2019)
2 Fedorivka, l1 Ki-
10355
14600 110 Animal
bone
Krotova (2019)
3 Solone Ozero
Ixa
Ki-
6360
14800 80 Animal
bone
Olenkovskiy
(2010)
4 Solone Ozero
Vi
Ki-
6206
13030 70 Animal
bone
Olenkovskiy
(2010)
5 Solone Ozero
Vi
Ki-
6202
12890 100 Animal
bone
Olenkovskiy
(2010)
6 Solone Ozero
IX
Ki-
5825
13460 80 Animal
bone
Olenkovskiy
(2010)
7 Solone Ozero
Ia
Ki-
6357
12700 60 Animal
bone
Olenkovskiy
(2010)
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
4
phase of this cultural aspect and compared to the site of Fedorivka with
two XIXXVIII mill. calBP radiocarbon dates. So we can suppose that
the Upper Paleolithic people were in the close vicinity to the Kamyana
Mohyla hill during GS2-1b (Rasmussen et al., 2014) and quite probably
later.
This statement is additionally supported by separate nds from the
Chervona Hora (the ridge above Kamyana Mohyla (Danilenko, 1986:
135)) as well as some deeply-patinated chipped stone artefacts with
rounded edges found during the excavations of the Kamyana Mohyla 1
site, Mesolithic and para-Neolithic sequence situated between the
Chervona Hora and the hill of Kamyana Mohyla (Kotova et al., 2017;
Kiosak et al., 2022). Usually, it is interpreted they moved down the
Chervona Hora by slope processes. Some could be manuports due to the
Mesolithic and para-Neolithic dwellers of the site. A two-platformed
prismatic core for wide and short irregular blades (Kotova et al., 2017,
Fig. 11:1) is a good example. It comes from a layer of para-Neolithic
Surskyi culture and nds few counterparts in its technological context,
while resembling similar cores from Kashtaeva Balka (Mykhailov, 1987,
Fig. 1:9) and other Epigravettian sites of the region (Olenkovskiy, 2010,
Fig. 3:28; 7:1 etc.). It can belong to Epigravettian, however this cannot
be stated with certainty due to the lack of relevant stratigraphic context.
2.3. Upper Paleolithic art of Kamyana Mohyla?
All the archaeological materials found within the Kamyana Mohyla
surroundings and considered Upper Paleolithic were taken into account
by Ukrainian rock art scholars to provide the archaeological context to
the rock art motifs of Kamyana Mohyla. The discovery of Pleistocene
assemblages within the site surroundings used to be a supportive argu-
ment to verify the possible Paleolithic Age of some Kamyana Mohyla
petroglyphs. Indeed, these assemblages within the site surroundings do
not mean the Pleistocene attribution of a particular engraving per se. If
there are none though, this attribution is very questionable.
The discovery of Upper Paleolithic sites in the region was awaited
ever since the rst hypotheses on the images of Pleistocene fauna.
2.3.1. The Bulls cave
The so-called ‘Bulls cave primal complex was discovered in 1918
and was considered by V. Danilenko as an Upper Paleolithic one. It
contains gurative images of different creatures produced by polishing
and incising the ceiling of the cave. Danilenko regards them as Paleo-
lithic by two criteria: 1) the Pleistocene fauna on the image; 2) the
clearly Paleolithic style of their appearance (Danilenko, 1986: 53).
The researcher considers this chronologic and stylistic group to be the
oldest in Kamyana Mohyla and describes it as ‘characterized by the
realistic images from the Mammoth cave [the way he named the
Bulls cave] protruded into the sandstone surface on the large area and
then painter. This includes the bulls in defense scene, singular en-
gravings found by B. Gladilin and a row of animals placed along a
cornice(Danilenko, 1986: 56). This interpretation was a matter of long
discussion since the discovery of the images. Since the ‘mammoth
image was the only instance of Pleistocene fauna depiction in the cave, it
played a key role in the chronological attribution of the motifs in gen-
eral. While ‘mammothversion was supported by M. Rudynskyi (1952),
other authors interpreted the carving as a bull (Zemlyakov, 1939; Gla-
dilin, 1969). Later these versions were compromised by B. Mykhailov
who suggested that the silhouette presents a mythical Rain Bull
(Mykhailov, 2005: 118119) a creature with a trunk and bulls
silhouette. These researchers attributed the image (and thus the whole
asset of rock carvings in the cave) to the EneolithicBronze Age. The
discussion ended after the digital photogrammetric study of the animal
depictions from the cave and their comparison with the Eneolithic im-
ages from Central Asia (Radchenko and Nykonenko, 2019) (Fig. 4:1, 2).
The images of bulls and the ‘mammoth one were reexamined, new
traces were produced; they have numerous analogies in the Eneolithic of
Central Asia. The hypothesis of their Late Eneolithic origin was also
supported by the recent study of similar engravings in Late Eneolithic
burial nearby (Daragan et al., 2021). These recent advances have proven
the idea of Upper Paleolithic art in the Bulls cave wrong and induced
the reexamination of other complex that was interpreted by V. Dan-
ilenko as depicting the Pleistocene fauna.
2.3.2. The Wizards cave
V. Danilenko also provided archaeological excavations and rock art
survey of Kamyana Mohyla and its surroundings during 1947,
19511956, 1973 and 1974. In 1973 he discovered two more caves
the cave of Churingas and the Wizards cave. While the former was not
featured by cave art objects and contained only portable ones that were
considered as Mesolithic depictions of a sh (Radchenko, 2022), the
latter has been attributed to the Upper Paleolithic due to the motifs that
were considered by V. Danilenko as Upper Paleolithic ones: the wizard,
mammoth, a few anthropomorphic dancers featured with the horns and
slightly spoiled image of cervidae were discovered. All these images are
pictured in a shallow engraving technique and remain barely notice-
able in the dark. The cave was called the Wizards caveaccording to
the rst image that was found there. The discovery of an asset of Upper
Paleolithic images of a special style caused the necessity of a trip to Kyiv
to request additional resources (Danilenko, 1986: 7576) (Fig. 4: 36).
The data in V. Danilenkos book contains a schematic drawing of the
rock art motifs from the cave that were never checked due to the limited
access to the cave.
During 1973 and 1974 Danilenko also found 88 portable engraved
stones that represent the collection of mobiliary art specimens from the
Wizards cave. He named them ‘churingasby coincidence, since the
shape of the portable stones resembled Australian churingas (1986:
118). The word itself means an object that is hidden (tju) but also
thing, which is personal to me (runga) (Strehlow, 1947: 8586).
However, in Ukrainian case the use of Australian word is just traditional
and does not reect neither physical nor functional parameters of
portable objects. Danilenko analyzes some of them and provides the
semantic interpretation of the engravings on their surface (Danilenko,
1986: 94118). According to his interpretations, these stones are the
clear representation of Upper Paleolithic worldview that includes the
Pleistocene fauna of the region, female gures and domestic and
mythological scenes (Fig. 5).
Fig. 3. Radiocarbon dates for the Upper Paleolithic sites of North Meotic region
(after Olenkovskiy, 2010; Krotova, 2019).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
5
In order to make his results and drawings more visible, Danilenko
used a method of direct painting of engravings with pastel coal right on
the stone surface. His methodology of rock art recording consisted of a)
the discovery of the images: b) their observation; c) drawing the en-
gravings with a pastel charcoal [made literally on the stones them-
selves]; d) tracing of drawings by pencil on the polyethylene etched with
acetic acid; e) transferring the drawing from polyethylene to the paper
through the light table; covering the engravings on a sandstone by the
glue BF2 and nitrodope [for the conservation purposes](Danilenko,
1986: 77). The photo xation was impossible, according to the scholar,
due to the lack of proper electric lighting systems. Therefore, V. Dan-
ilenko interpreted the parietal art depictions using his own drawings
while the portable ones were analyzed later in the laboratory of the
Institute of Archaeology of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Following the same methodology, he covered the portable rock art
specimens with the pastel coal to make the engravings visible during the
photo xation in the laboratory. On one hand, such method does a lot of
damage to the engraved image and prevents the correct understanding
of the motifs. On the other hand, the pastel coal drawings that remained
on the surface of portable stones and cave ceilings give an opportunity to
follow Danilenkos consideration and understand the origin of his ideas.
To sum up, there were 4 main statements to prove the existence of
Upper Paleolithic rock art on Kamyana Mohyla and in the Wizards cave
in particular: 1) there are archaeological sites that belong to the Upper
Paleolithic within the Kamyana Mohyla surroundings; 2) The image of a
mammoth from the ‘Bulls cave is a clear naturalistic depiction of
Pleistocene fauna and thus a representation of an Upper Paleolithic
motif; 3) portable rock art specimens feature instances of Upper Paleo-
lithic worldview images of a woman, rhinoceros, mammoths, wizards
etc. (Figs. 4 and 6); 4) the ceiling of the Wizards cave contains
numerous depictions of clearly Upper Paleolithic images made in unique
and recognizable style.
Unlike the interpretation of depictions from the Bulls cave, those
from the Wizards cave were never criticized or evaluated in a separate
research. Though B. Mykhailov states that the efforts of V. Danilenko
and B. Mykhailov played an important role in the proof of the Upper
Paleolithic petroglyphs [on Kamyana Mohyla]and ‘ the ceilings and
cornices with the depictions of Pleistocene fauna were discovered as
well as numerous portable blocks with semantically equal images
(2005: 102), he used the drawings provided by V. Danilenko and did not
consider them critically.
However, the misinterpretation of the images from the Bulls cave
deconstructs one of the four statements and deprives Kamyana Mohyla
of the whole set of ‘naturalistic images of the Pleistocene fauna in one
go. Moreover, it has revealed that the possible interest of Ukrainian rock
art scholars in discovery of the Paleolithic art might have affected their
interpretations of Kamyana Mohyla site. Therefore, it is reasonable to
reexamine the objects from the Wizards cave to confront the hypotheses
made by V. Danilenko with new data and current state of the art. This is
relevant both for the collection of portable art specimens from the
Fig. 4. Engravings from the Bulls cave (1,
2) and the Wizards cave (36) from
Kamyana Mohyla. 1 An image of so-called
‘Rain Bull that V. Danilenko considered to
be a mammoth (after Radchenko and
Nykonenko, 2019: 59, Fig. 11); 2 an
image of ‘row of animals (after Radchenko
and Nykonenko, 2019: 57, Fig. 8); 3
drawing of the ‘Wizard (after Danilenko,
1986: 137, Fig. 91); 4 killed mammoth
and the anthropomorphic gures surround-
ing him (after Danilenko, 1986: 76,
Fig. 27:2); 5 an image of a cervidae (after
Danilenko, 1986: 77, Fig. 28:2); 6
composition of a Great goddessand a cave
lion, the rst group from Scynia (Danilenko,
1986:90, Fig. 41).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
6
Wizards cave that are in the storage of the Institute of Archaeology of
NAS of Ukraine in Kyiv and parietal art motifs on the ceiling of the cave.
The latter, however, is barely accessible due to the recent destruction in
the cave and considerable amount of sand that lls most part of the
space inside.
The only parietal art motif that remains observable and accessible for
3D modeling in the Wizards cave is the eponymous image of so-called
‘Wizard, discovered and interpreted by V. Danilenko in 1973
(Fig. 4:3). It is located close to the cave entrance, where the ceiling
height is almost 70 cm. Therefore the observation of the image and its
Fig. 5. Churingas from Kamyana Mohyla. Photos (by S. Radchenko) and drawings made by V. Danilenko. 1 No. 245, three women (after Danilenko, 1986: 128,
Fig. 88); 2 No. 247, the image of a bull (after Danilenko, 1986: 126, Fig. 84); 3 No. 283, mammoth, cave bear and rhinoceros (after Danilenko, 1986: 107,
Fig. 60); 4 No. 302, the image of a wolf (after Danilenko, 1986: 101, Fig. 54); 5 No. 338, an antelope (after Danilenko, 1986: 98, Fig. 49); 6 No. KM741, a
bull and partially depicted cave lion (after Danilenko, 1986: 95, Fig. 45); 7 No. KM742, a river, human being and a hut (after Danilenko, 1986: 114, Fig. 68); 8
No. 307, rhinoceros (after Danilenko, 1986: 98, Fig. 50).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
7
photogrammetric assessment is possible despite the lack of natural light
and the need to crawl inside the cave. Following the interpretative
drawing made with pastel coal and copied to his book, Danilenko states:
‘The complex consists of at least three components: totally anthro-
pomorphic symbol of a Wizard; an animal with the tail where the tail is
also the Wizards attribute; zoomorphic frame that surrounds the
Wizard. The latter is the least clear phenomenon. Search for the analo-
gies in the fauna did not lead us to the solution of this issue. A snout of a
creature if examined carefully seems to be not that of an hoofed animal
due to its sharp shape similar to a beak. It is possible that the zoomorphic
background of the Wizard is introduced by a bird It is worth noticing
that the motif of a shaman embodied in a bird is the ancient and common
one that was probably shared by human beings across the world during
the Paleolithic Age(Danilenko, 1986: 136137).
The validation of these V. Danilenkos hypotheses requires a complex
and accurate reexamination of the objects surface. The comparison
between the new data and the existent drawings and pastel coal paint-
ings on the sandstone surface will clarify the relevance of semantic in-
terpretations. Moreover, the accurate digital tracing will contribute to
the required digital preservation and representation of a motif.
3. Methods
The most pressing needs for the rock art recording and rock art
research can be summarized as visibility, abstraction, accuracy and
objectivity (Rondini, 2018: 260). In addition, the particular tools must
be applied to the given rock art objects taking into account their location
and limited access to the engravings.
Application of these concepts to the particular case of Kamyana
Mohyla justies the image-based 3D-modeling as the most relevant and
accessible solution for rock art research there. To begin with, the
reconstructed shape of rock panels and portable rock art specimens gives
more visibility than the direct observation and single image, i.e. it
clearly presents what is depicted and where (Porter et al., 2016;
Likhachev, 2018). These methods, applied to the rock carvings of
Kamyana Mohyla, have already resulted in the discovery of new petro-
glyphs and reconsideration of the known ones (Radchenko and Nyko-
nenko, 2019).
Abstraction serves the need of seeing the engraved gures apart from
distracting elements (Rondini, 2018: 260). Applying it to the Ukrainian
art this means the possibility to avoid the confusing impact of V. Dan-
ilenkos paintings on the current analysis by examining surface rather
than color.
Finally, accuracy and objectivity refer to the level of correspondence
between the model, visual data and reality. Though the digital photo-
grammetric solutions have shown their great efciency for the rock art
recording all around the world (Tosello and Villaverde, 2014; M´
elard
et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2019; Radchenko et al., 2020), the assessment
of accuracy often requires special solutions for the particular case.
The data acquisition process in the Wizards cave is also affected by
the limited space in the cave and impossibility to safely provide any
additional excavation works. Therefore, images were collected from the
same distance and comprise the Wizards engraving and the small area
around it including the photogrammetric plastic card for the assessment
of metric parameters (see Table 2). The images with automatically
estimated quality below 0.5 were excluded from the processing.
Unlike the cave art object, the portable ones were photographed to
perform the image-based 3D-modeling in the laboratory. The data
acquisition involved the use of metallic calibration board, designed and
calibrated on a submillimeter level specially for the study of portable
rock art objects from Kamyana Mohyla. The metallic board allows to
have the accuracy of 3D-model reference of less than 0.7 mm and to
provide the detailed analysis of the mobiliary art specimens. The coor-
dinate eld is made by the computer numerical control machine
equipped with laser. The error of coordinate line placement does not
exceed 100
μ
m according to the laser interferometer check. Taking into
account the results of metrological tests, the reference error might be
reduced to 0.5 mm. The total size of the eld, which is 19 ×19 cm,
allows referencing every stone in the Kamyana Mohyla portable art
collection to the conventional rectangular coordinate system and
acquiring the metric data from the model measuring and examination.
In total 50 portable art specimens attributed to Upper Paleolithic were
modeled and examined.
The data for each specimen were acquired in ve acquisition scenes:
1) Top view, horizontal rotation of the object and the coordinate eld
(for the future referencing);
2) Down view, horizontal rotation of the object without the coordinate
eld
3) Left view, vertical rotation of the object;
4) Right view, vertical rotation of the object
5) Additional imaging of the stone facets if required.
The scenes were referenced and reconstructed in Agisoft Metashape
v. 1.5. The reconstruction of the shape of portable objects required the
masking of the image background. In order to align and 3D-reconstruct
the shape of portable stones the masks were applied differently for
different acquisition scenes. On the rst acquisition scene the stone and
calibration eld were considered during the alignment; only the stone
object without additional objects was considered on the rest of acqui-
sition scenes. After the alignment and dense point cloud reconstruction,
the scene was manually cleaned from noisy points and meshed into a
model (Fig. 6: 1).
The models were used to extract the cross-sections of engravings
from Agisoft Metashape and for metric assessment of their parameters
Fig. 6. An engraving of the Wizard. 1 reconstructed mesh; 2 drawing
(made by SR).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
8
after the small part of the model containing cross-section is separated, it
is transformed into 2D orthophoto, measured and vectorized to provide
objectivity and accuracy during the analysis of engraving and consider
the technological differences of different incisions.
To provide the further examination, models were exported into
Meshlab v. 2016.12. Ambient occlusion and Radiance Scaling shaders
were applied to increase the visibility of the engravings. Moreover, the
articial virtual light manipulation provided an additional tool for the
examination of 3D models. The latter is comparable to RTI-technology
applied to 3D models (Porter et al., 2016; Graff, 2018). Applied to the
models of portable specimens, these lters increase visibility of the in-
cisions including those with depth below 0.15 mm. Finally, the drawings
were created from the digital orthophotos, taking into account the re-
sults of articial light application.
These methodological efforts provide the sufcient level of accuracy
and visibility and allow to re-examine the previous assumptions made by
V. Danilenko. When compared to his drawings and pastel painting of
rock art objects, they reveal the relevance and accuracy of the estab-
lished ‘Upper Paleolithicinterpretations.
4. Results
In order to test both semantic interpretations and chronological
attribution of the rock art objects from the Wizards cave provided by V.
Danilenko the image-based 3D modeling has been performed. This al-
lows to accurately examine the surface of the rock and revise the current
understanding according to the new data.
4.1. The portable art objects from the Wizards cave
The accurate and precise surface examination of all 50 portable rock
art specimens revealed the misleading pattern of their interpretation
applied by V. Danilenko. His pastel coal pictograms on the surface of the
ancient stones do not correspond to the real location of the engravings.
Vice versa, he painted the surface of the stones regardless of which
particular parts of the stone are engraved. All investigated objects share
the same trend: while some of engravings are covered with pastel coal,
others are not; there are also many painted lines that were drawn not on
the engravings. Consequently, the drawings that V. Danilenko created
from these paintings and used during the interpretation of the engrav-
ings do not correspond to what is really engraved (Figs. 7 and 8). From
the 50 3D-modeled specimens there is not a single one that shows
different pattern. Moreover, any gurative engravings like woman or
animal depictions etc. are absent on the surface of the objects. Therefore,
the whole set of interpretations, provided by V. Danilenko regarding the
portable art specimens from the Wizards cave is irrelevant as the
interpreted pictures are not equal to what is actually engraved. The
stones are covered mostly with reticulated or linear ornamentation,
sometimes containing small cupmarks.
This non-gurative ornamentation, however, is a trace of articial
processing of the stone surface. The at surface of the objects is covered
with shallow and wide lines and perforated cupmarks. They were pro-
cessed by human beings and thus might be considered as a collection of
portable rock art instances.
The sandstone of Kamyana Mohyla is too dense and hard for animals
to scratch accidently or even intentionally. The main component of the
Kamyana Mohyla sandstone is quartz. Its Mohs hardness is mostly equal
to 7, while the assumed hardness of keratin-based animal claws (simi-
larly to human ngernail) does not exceed 2.53 (Ivanov 1990). Even if
we assume that the animals could scratch out the sandstone grains from
the slabs (that would be really uncomfortable to perform with the small
blocks of irregular shape), this would create the irregular and curved
edge of the engraving, which is not the case for the engravings on
Kamyana Mohyla stones. Last but not least, the engravings on the stone
are too wide and deep to consider them zoogenic or accidently produced
their creation required numerous repetitions over and over, that is
evident from cross-sections of the incisions and the shape of cupmarks.
To conclude, the collection of portable art objects from the Wizards
cave represents an asset of stones with non-gurative ornamentation.
They do not contain any kind of depictions that might be considered as
Upper Paleolithic.
4.2. The ‘wizard motif on an eponymous cave ceiling
Since the examination of the portable art specimens had shown the
systematic error in rock art recording and interpretation procedure, the
Table 2
Data acquisition and processing parameters.
Parameter Wizards engraving Portable objects
Reconstructed scene
Camera NIKON D3300 Canon EOS 5DS R
Aperture 3.5 16
Exposure, s 1/60 1/5
Focal distance, mm 18 50
Image size, pixels 4000 ×6000 5792 ×8688
Number of images (average) 54 113
Number of polygons 8 000 000 8000 000
Estimated size of a polygon,
μ
m 30 50
Control points error, mm (max) 0.461 0.497
Control points error, mm (min) 0.107
Control points error, mm (average) 0.316
Check points error, mm (max) 0.742 0.483
Check points error, mm (min) 0.171
Check points error, mm (average) 0.372
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
9
Fig. 7. Churingas from Kamyana Mohyla. A Photos; B Drawings, made by S. Radchenko after examining 3D-models; C 3D-mesh. 1 No. 245; 2 No. 247;
3 No. 283; 4 No. 302.
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
10
Fig. 8. Churingas from Kamyana Mohyla. A Photos; B Drawings, made by S. Radchenko after examining 3D-models; C 3D-mesh. 1 No. 338; 2 No.
KM741; 3 No. KM742; 4 No. 307.
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
11
relevance of interpretation of the parietal art motifs from the Wizards
cave also needs to be veried. Unfortunately, excavation and explora-
tion of the cave appears to be dangerous and requires additional
nancial and institutional support. Among all the engravings in the cave
only the eponymous one is available for the digitization and check.
Fortunately, it presents the example of what V. Danilenko considered as
‘common Upper Paleolithic motif of a wizard or a shaman that turns
into a creature by wearing its skin (Danilenko, 1986: 137139). Scholar
distinguished (and pictured with black pigment) the silhouette of a
human being, inscribed into the larger silhouette of an animal or a bird.
The digital examination of the picture revealed the pattern, identical
to the pattern of portable stones. The cave ceiling contains engravings
made by human beings. The reticulated ornamentation contains chaot-
ically placed linear incisions. The latter have different sizes and shapes
and are different by their cross-sections (Fig. 9). However, the placing of
a black pigment, used by V. Danilenko, does not necessarily correspond
to the engravings in sandstone surface. Comparing to the drawing pro-
vided by V. Danilenko (see Fig. 4:3), the real image of a human being
lacks head and the part of torso. Two zigzag lines, which were consid-
ered creatures legs, are presented as well as the line, which was thought
to be a creatures tail (though its shape changed). The shape of ‘snoutor
‘beakis also different from what was drawn in 1973. These differences
between the real image and what was interpreted by V. Danilenko make
his interpretation dubious, especially taking into account that he did not
support his assumptions by any parallels with known rock art sites,
while all his supportive arguments appeared to be misleading or
insufcient.
Therefore, none of depictions that are accessible for examination
represent an example of clearly ‘Upper Paleolithicmotif. Moreover, the
drawings and interpretations of 51 out of 51 examined objects do not
correspond to what is engraved on the sandstone surface.
5. Discussion
The results of 3D modeling and investigating the surfaces of the
models bring up the need to reevaluate the assumptions that were made
regarding the Upper Paleolithic rock art of Kamyana Mohyla both
portable and parietal art objects. This implies testing all four arguments
listed by V. Danilenko in his book, where the Upper Paleolithic com-
plexes were rst published.
5.1. Re-evaluation of the arguments for Upper Paleolithic origin of the art
objects
1) The Upper Paleolithic origin of rock art motifs from the Bulls cave and
the Wizards cave is supported by the archaeological data within the
Kamyana Mohyla surroundings. For the decades since this assumption
was made by V. Danilenko the conceptual development of the
discipline led to the more profound understanding of the known
sites. They now may be reconsidered as not redeposited but located
on Late Glacial pro-terraces. Moreover, they were preliminarily
attributed to Epigravettian technocomplex and local North Azov
culture and the particular period of time (1678015512 calBCE).
These archaeological evidences prove the hypothesis of the intense
inhabitation of the Kamyana Mohyla surroundings during Upper
Paleolithic to be correct.
However, there are no direct links between the rock art of Kamyana
Mohyla and these sites. Moreover, the art objects from both caves are
deprived of any archaeological context and their relation to the partic-
ular inhabitants of the region is still questionable. To sum up, now we
have more evidence of the presence of Upper Paleolithic human beings
near Kamyana Mohyla than we had 50 years ago, but their relation to
the rock art of the region is still not proved.
2) The engravings in the Bulls cave depict the Pleistocene fauna. The Ho-
locene attribution of the depictions from the cave No. 9 is now
supported by Eneolithic archaeological assemblage in the cave,
photogrammetric study of the surface of the engravings (Radchenko
and Nykonenko, 2019) and stylistically and technologically similar
images both in the region and in broader Central Asian rock art
context. Therefore the hypothesis of the Upper Paleolithic origin of
the engravings from the Bulls cave seems to be refuted.
3) The portable art objects from the Wizards cave contain images of
Pleistocene fauna and Upper Paleolithic worldview. The analysis of 3D
models performed during the research showed that portable objects
do not contain any depiction of Pleistocene fauna or any motif that
can be arguably attributed to Upper Paleolithic. Therefore, they
cannot present any evidence to support neither their own Upper
Paleolithic origin nor Upper Paleolithic origin of the images on the
Wizards cave ceilings. However, they are a unique collection of
engraved sandstone blocks with anthropogenic engravings that share
the cultural and chronological context that is not dened yet.
4) The images on the Wizards cave ceiling are an example of typical Upper
Paleolithic motifs and Pleistocene fauna. Similarly to the portable rock
Fig. 9. The cross-sections of incisions that constitute the Wizards engraving. The measurements below the calculated accuracy of 3D-model (0.5 mm)
remain inexact.
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
12
art objects, the examined parietal ones do not represent what V.
Danilenko thought. There is no clear depiction of a zoomorf, human
being or therianthropic creature. Therefore, this interpretation
cannot support the hypothesis of the Upper Paleolithic rock art ex-
istence on Kamyana Mohyla without sufcient reconsideration.
Taking into account the inconsistency of all four statements, we
conclude that there is no reliable evidence that Kamyana Mohyla com-
plex contains the instances of Pleistocene rock art. None of the examined
objects might be considered Upper Paleolithic for sure.
On the other hand, the presence of Upper Paleolithic sites within the
Kamyana Mohyla surroundings and the appearance of the petroglyphs
allow to formulate new hypothesis on portable stones attribution and
three more on the possible interpretation of the Wizard image. Though
these hypotheses outline the possible connection of the engravings to the
Upper Paleolithic, they are not privileged among other possible answers
regarding the chronology of Kamyana Mohyla rock art. These particular
ones are considered here in detail simultaneously due to their coherence
with the existent tradition of the rock art research on Kamyana Mohyla
and their inner consistency despite the obvious lack of archaeological
reasoning to consider any hypothesis as a solid one. No doubts, the
formulation of other assumptions and the discussion on the chronolog-
ical attribution of Kamyana Mohyla rock art depictions are required
before any solid answers will be found. Therefore, we will consider the
hypotheses here as assumptions to be tested in future, when more data
on the archaeological and rock art contexts of the site will be discovered.
5.2. Hypothesizing the examined motifs
The up-to-date hypothesis on how the portable rock art collection
from the Wizards cave is related to Upper Paleolithic derives from the
chronological and technological attribution of the known archaeological
assemblages from the region and recent advances in the structuring of
the artistic representations both in European and Ukrainian Upper
Paleolithic. Though it lacks the direct evidences and clear parallels,
some assumptions might be made.
5.2.1. Portable rock art collection from the Wizards cave
The important consideration for any hypothesizing on the portable
art of Kamyana Mohyla is that it is different from known European and
Eastern collections and lacks clear analogies and thus should be
considered as a separate phenomenon at least so far. This is also the
case for the Upper Paleolithic archaeological sites of the region that used
to be considered different and separate from those in Central Europe
(Olenkowski, 2000). It is therefore should be taken into account that
Ukrainian case is unique and requires special concepts and approaches
to be developed. On the other hand, particular similarities are noticeable
and leave space for hypothesizing.
Portable engraved stones, also known as stone plaquettes are well-
known from European Upper Paleolithic. Large assemblages are found
in Western Europe and connected to the Magdalenian Upper Paleolithic
art (Sieveking, 1987a, 1987b), though are not limited to the latter. The
portable rock art collections of Parpall´
o (Villaverde, 1994), Gonnersdorf
(Bosinski, 1991), Saalek (Bosinski, 1982), La Marche (Lwoff, 1941) and
Foz do Medal introduce numerous examples of different Paleolithic rock
art traditions. The largest of them, Parpall´
o, consists both of painted and
engraved plaquettes and covers the whole span from Gravettian to
Upper Magdalenian (Rold´
an García et al., 2016). Similarly, Foz do
Medal introduces more than 1500 fragments of Gravettian, Solutrean
and Magdalenian contexts with gurative depictions incised in slate and
greywacke (Soares de Figueiredo et al., 2020: 65). The Gonnersdorf
collection of the engraved slate stones is noticeable due to the specic
style of depictions spread across Central and even Southern (Mussi and
de Marco, 2008) Europe. However, the portable stones from Kamyana
Mohyla have the biggest similarity with the collections containing slate
or sandstone and engraved by scratching their surface (i.e. La Marche
collection, technologically considered in M´
elard, 2008, 2010 and
M´
elard et al., 2016). They present different aspects of Upper Paleolithic
imaginary, including anthropomorphic forms (Bosinski, 1991; Fuentes,
2016), animals (Güth, 2012; Bosinski and Bosinski, 2009), abstract and
geometric motifs (Sieveking, 1987a) and sometimes even environmental
depictions (García-Diez and Vaquero, 2015).
Though the plaquettes are mostly found in France, Spain and Ger-
many, their geography varies from Portugal in the west (de Figueiredo
et al., 2014) to Romania in the east (C´
arciumaru and Nit¸u, 2018;
Anghelinu et al., 2020). Single nds of comparable age are sometimes
present in Eastern Ukraine (Gorelik and Tarasenko, 1993: 2834; Gor-
elik, 2001: 208209; Vetrov, 2007).
As most of these collections (not all of them) are featured with
archaeological context, their functions and life cycle can be considered
or suggested. The former included use in hearth constructions (Tosello,
2003; Fritz and Tosello, 2011), as a pavement (Bahn and Vertut, 1988;
Arias and Onta˜
non, 2013) or non-functional use connected to the light
conditions (Needham et al., 2022). The latter suggests that many of them
might have been broken (accidently or intentionally) (see Arias, 2009)
and engraved again after the fragmentation (de Figueiredo et al., 2014).
The portable stones from the Wizards cave of Kamyana Mohyla
share a number of characteristic features to be mentioned for their
technological description and contextualization. First, the shapes of the
objects from the Wizards cave were slightly processed before engraving.
All stones from the collection are covered with desert varnish. Moreover,
the portable stones from Kamyana Mohyla lack any kind of archaeo-
logical context; we are forced to consider them per se.
Second, the stones from the Wizards cave are the representation of
how human beings interacted with their environment. Similar to the
Western European stones, those from Kamyana Mohyla might have also
been re-engraved after the fragmentation. A clear illustrative instance is
the block No. KM742, that broke in two pieces that were left in the
Wizards cave. The smaller one, however, was engraved after the
fragmentation.
The structuring of discovered Western European stone plaquettes
collections showed that simplied representations are also found in the
Upper-Final Magdalenian together with very naturalistic gures, some
turning very schematic (Naudinot et al., 2018; also see Ruiz et al.,
2022). These recent nds (Roussot, 1987; Paillet and Man-Estier, 2014)
introduce: 1) the gradual shift from the classic Magdalenian gurative
art towards the abstract expressions on the portable stones; 2) the
presence of schematic representations in the Magdalenian art complexes
the presence of geometric elements is another typical feature of
Epimagdalenian rock art and of the mobiliary art included in this style
(Ruiz et al., 2022: 18). The chronological and technological attribution
of Upper Paleolithic sites within the Kamyana Mohyla surroundings so
far refers to the same chronological stage while the portable art speci-
mens show the high level of non-gurativeness.
Moreover, non-gurative ornamentation of the portable stones is
common for the Upper Paleolithic art of Northern Europe (Plonka and
Kowalski, 2017). Most of it is presented with engraved bones from
Hamburgian or Azilian complexes (Plonka and Kowalski, 2017: 174),
but also include Magdalenian ones (Sieveking, 1987a). Such motifs are
also known from Upper Paleolithic decorated bones, antlers and tusks of
Mezhyrich, Mizyn (Iakovleva, 2009) and Rogalik (Gorelik, 2001: 209).
However, decorated bone objects from Ukraine mostly feature geo-
metric ornamentation lattices, so-called meander, zigzags etc.
(Iakovleva, 2010). If this is taken into account, the portable rock art
from Kamyana Mohyla remains alone other Ukrainian archaeological
objects of this kind, though it shares some common features with the
portable art of Western Europe. Under no circumstances they might be
persuasively attributed to Upper Paleolithic without direct archaeolog-
ical or chronological proofs. Such attribution, however, is possible due
to the relevant features of Magdalenian objects and known archaeo-
logical context of the region. This should be taken into account in the
future research.
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
13
5.2.2. Parietal art motif
Unlike portable objects, the image of so-called Wizard on the ceiling
of the cave reveals more space for interpretation or attribution. This is
due to the peculiar shape of the curved lines that were considered by V.
Danilenko as buttocks and legs of a human being. Though the initial idea
of a mans silhouette inscribed into the larger contour of an animal
appeared to be wrong and does not correspond to the real surface of the
object, the particular part of the ceiling in the cave remains covered with
linear engravings. Moreover, the scene still might be considered mean-
ingful and thus can possibly be interpreted. Though this assumption is
quite daring per se, such possibility should not be ignored. Similar to the
portable stones, the Wizard petroglyph does not have any direct refer-
ences in Central European Upper Paleolithic art, though it might be
considered in the frame of particular motifs and traditions, modied
according to the details of particular complex, its geological and tech-
nological features.
5.2.2.1. Hypothesis 1. The most simple and modest solution to the un-
derstanding of an image would be to consider it as non-gurative a set
of chaotic and sometimes almost parallel lines. Such solution does not
leave any space for further interpretation and attribution since non-
gurative imaging, linear and reticulated ornamentation might be
attributed to any time and space. It is typical for many different stone
panels of Kamyana Mohyla, including those considered (not tested or
proved) Paleolithic (Mykhailov, 2005: 203, Fig. 10), Mesolithic
(Mykhailov, 2005: 200, Fig. 6), Bronze Age (Mykhailov, 2005: 204,
Fig. 12) and Iron Age (Mykhailov, 2005: 216, Fig. 30). The
non-gurative parietal art depictions are well known from the Upper
Paleolithic of Southern (e.g. Servidio et al., 2021; Sigari et al., 2021) and
Western Europe (e.g. Lerma et al., 2006; Ruiz-Redondo, 2014; Moralez
and Straus, 2015; Riley, 2017; White et al., 2019; Ruiz et al., 2022) and
assumed to be presented in Ukrainian Carpathians (Chernysh, 1959).
Being the most strict and reliable interpretation, it neither conrms
nor disproves the Upper Paleolithic origin of the Wizard engraving,
which still remains questionable. The ‘non-gurativehypothesis seems
to be solid also since it corresponds to the understanding of portable rock
art objects and does not need semantic meaning of a petroglyph. This is,
however, a less fruitful assumption that is followed by two more daring
but more informative versions.
5.2.2.2. Hypothesis 2. The second way of the petroglyph interpretation
is to follow the initial V. Danilenkos assumption that the image depicts a
therianthropic gure. The scholar considered it to be ‘wizard or shaman
with bent knees that is inscribed into the silhouette of a large unknown
creature. Such composition supposedly depicts a human being in the
process of metamorphosis (Danilenko, 1986: 136138). Danilenko
Fig. 10. The images of composite beings from Central European Upper Paleolithic. 1 man with bird head from Lascaux (after Lommel, 1966); 24 therianthropic
creatures from Les Trois-Freres (after B´
egou¨
en, 2014); 5 parietal art of Gabillou cave (after Gaussens, 1964, Fig. 19); 6 parietal art of Carriot cave (after Lor-
blanchet, 2010); 7 parietal art of Combarelles cave (after Archambeau and Archambeau, 1991); 8 portable art of Espelugues (after Capitan et al., 1924); 9
The Wizard from Kamyana Mohyla (drawing by Simon Radchenko).
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
14
assumed that the creature might be a bird due to its sharp beak and
pointed out that bird images are popular in European Upper Paleolithic
and represent one of the main cosmological myths (Marshac, 1970).
The appearance of the Wizard from Kamyana Mohyla, however,
differs from known bird depictions from Central and Western Europe
(see Sigari et al., 2021). In fact, it lacks all attributes that might support
this interpretation. The known therianthropic bird-like gures
(including the most iconic and well-known from Lascaux cave (see
Fig. 10: 1)) have nothing in common with the image from Kamyana
Mohyla.
Though this assumption was based on the wrong drawing while in
reality there are no torso and head of a human being (i.e. the shaman),
the therianthropic hypothesis might be considered in a slightly different
light a human being turning into a bison. The double zigzag on the left
part of the engraving, supposedly bent legs of a creature, is proved to be
correctly depicted after photogrammetric study.
The concept of composite body as a representation of human body
plus non-human elements, generally taken from the animal (Fuentes
et al., 2017: 240) is well known from European Magdalenian in Dor-
dogne and around Les Trois Freres during the latest phase of the
Magdalenian (Fuentes, 2013). These creatures usually turn into bison
(Fig. 10: 26) and have animal upper body while the legs remain human.
The legs are often bent in a shape similar to zigzag. Such images had
multiple interpretations as the depictions of sorcerers, horned gods
(Breuil, 1952; B´
egou¨
en, 2014) or shamans in trance (Clottes and
Lewis-Williams, 1996).
Taking this into account, the interpretation of the ‘shamanfrom
Kamyana Mohyla as a human being with bent knees who wears the bi-
sons skin (featured with furs) is possible and links the gure to the
brightest examples of Magdalenian composite gures depictions. Once
again, such interpretation attributes the image to Upper Paleolithic,
which is in general convergence with archaeological assemblage within
Kamyana Mohyla surroundings and the hypothesis on the attribution of
portable art specimens.
However, lack of clearly visible head, horns and the upper part of
bison body depictions leave this interpretation questionable and hypo-
thetical rather than provides any kind of nal conclusion.
5.2.2.3. Hypothesis 3. The third and last hypothesis on possible inter-
pretation of the engraving derives from the absence of clearly distin-
guishable human silhouette on the ceiling of the cave. However, in order
to assume that the petroglyph represents any gurative image it is
required to hypothesize its possible meaning in the light of new data.
Excluding the ‘human component from the interpretation of the
engraving, we can suggest that the image is animalistic depiction.
Taking this concept as a starting point, one can consider zigzags as a
representation of the creatures bent legs and buttocks, while the upper
horizontal line depicts the back of an animal. Chaotic and subparallel
lines on the right part of the gure represent a massive creature covered
with furs. Such bison depictions were found among the Magdalenian art
of Cantabria, Spain (see Fig. 11: 13), namely Altxerri complex (Ruiz--
Redondo, 2014: 74) although their contours are clearer than those of the
Fig. 11. Magdalenian and Epimagdalenian animal depictions from Cantabria, Spain. 13 bisons, Altxerri complex; 45 cervidaes, Ca˜
nada de Marco; 6
cervidae, Parellada IV. 1 after Ruiz-Redondo (2014): 66, Figs. 64; 2 after Ruiz-Redondo (2014): 71, Figs. 67; 3 after Ruiz-Redondo (2014): 74, Figs. 69;
45 after Ruiz et al., (2022): 17, Fig. 16; 6 after Vi˜
nas and Sarri´
a, 2010: 79, Fig. 2.
S. Radchenko and D. Kiosak
Quaternary International xxx (xxxx) xxx
15
studied gure.
However, the shape of supposed buttock of the creature does not
correspond to that of Magdalenian bison depictions its round shape
together with bent legs are rather typical to therianthropic creatures (see
Fig. 10) or cervidae. The schematized depictions of the latter also appear
in Late Magdalenian rock art of Spain (see Fig. 11: 46), namely Ca˜
nada
de Marco (Ruiz et al., 2022: 17) and Parellada IV (Vi˜
nas and Sarri´
a,
2010: 79) and might be featured with the depicted furs. The assumption
that the engraving from Kamyana Mohyla depicts a cervidae, however,
is not satisfying because of its massive front part and abstract, almost
non-gurative, appearance.
Some patterns of some Magdalenian animal depictions might be
relevant for the engraving from Ukraine, but none of them can be used
systematically and in full scale as some pattern correspond to the
particular components of engraved creature in particular and specic
way. Though interpretation of the petroglyph from Kamyana Mohyla as
an animalistic depiction of a bison or a cervidae would contribute to its
Upper Paleolithic attribution, it remains as hypothetical as two others
are.
6. Conclusion
The reported analysis was carried out with the application of image
based 3D-modeling of rock art objects with submillimeter accuracy. It
supported the analysis with detailed models of 50 portable rock art
specimens out of 88 reported so far and an accurate model and drawing
of a petroglyph from the only rock art location in Ukraine that used to be
considered Upper Paleolithic. This engraving used to be eponymous to
the cave and a crucial proof of the Pleistocene origin of the whole
complex. However, the examination of the analyzed asset revealed
mostly non-gurative anthropogenic alterations of natural surfaces and
objects. In general, the gurativeness of the discussed engravings was
largely overestimated by almost every scholar that ever worked with the
collection. In the absence of well-dated archaeological context this
observation undermines the possibility to attribute depictions to some
chronological or cultural group on the basis of their semantic interpre-
tation. In fact, every considered depiction of Pleistocene fauna or
anthropomorphic gure appeared to be a set of misinterpreted incisions.
Thus, the Paleolithic age of some rock art from Kamyana Mohyla re-
mains highly questionable. Moreover, since all four statements that
supported the Paleolithic attribution of the rock art from the Wizards
cave of Kamyana Mohyla were invalidated, this attribution fails to be
persuasive in general. The archaeological contexts are distant and in-
direct and cannot be considered as reliable evidence, while the stylistic-
symbolic ones are not supportive due to the lack of indicative motifs or
reliable analogies. Before additional evidences are found we should
consider this attribution misleading and incorrect, or at least highly
hypothetical.
However, on the way of morphological comparisons the portable art
specimens may be considered as resembling Magdalenian plaquettes. In
turn, the interpretation of the parietal art object cannot be made with
sufcient level of certainty. This leads to the formulation of several
hypotheses: either the object presents a set of non-gurative incisions
(which is the only solid case that can formulated so far) or, when
considered as gurative one, a therianthropic or a zoomorphic image.
The features of its appearance, however, bring us back to the set of
analogies from Magdalenian objects.
To sum up, there is no certain evidence pro or contra the Upper
Paleolithic origin of parietal and portable art objects from the Wizards
cave. Complicated by the absence of archaeological context and dating
tools, the attribution or interpretation of engravings from the Wizards
cave seems to be secondary issue. Though archaeological assemblage
within the surroundings of the site and the reminiscences to European
Upper Paleolithic objects leave space for hypothesizing, the clear and
nal solutions on that score are yet to come. Meanwhile, the accurate
description and multivariate consideration of what rock art objects
really are is a prominent way of getting closer to the correct under-
standing of a complex. So far, the validity of used methods is proved, a
set of hypotheses formulated and the direction of further research is
outlined. Both the results of digital analysis and the hypotheses that
originated from them present Kamyana Mohyla as an important rock art
location that shouldnt be ignored during the discussions on the pre-
History of Eastern Europe.
Author contributions
SR provided the photogrammetric study of rock art objects and the
analysis of both portable and parietal objects, all the gures except
Figs. 1 and 3 and text for parts 1, 2.1, 2.3, 3, 4, 5. DK analyzed the sites of
the region and performed data calibration, created Figs. 1 and 3, wrote
paragraph 2.2 and contributed to discussing, editing and structuring the
whole text.
Data availability
All raw data supporting the conclusions of this article can be ob-
tained upon request from the corresponding author.
Funding
The research was supported by H2020-MSCA-COFUND, G.A. nr.
754511 — “PhD Technology Driven Sciences: Technologies for Cultural
Heritage (T4C)” — second call and the European Unions Horizon 2020
research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie
grant agreement No. 891737.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial
interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to inuence
the work reported in this paper.
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