Northeastern comprehensive research institute of the Far Eastern branch of RAS, Magadan
BONE BURIN HANDLE FROM UST-BELAYA (BARROW 15) OCCUPATION SITE AND THE PROBLEM OF THE HANDLES CLASSIFICATION IN THE CULTURES OF THE FAR EAST NORTH AND THE NORTH OF THE PACIFIC.
An occupation-burial site near Ust-Belaya village on the Anadyr river (Chukotka) was discovered by N.N. Dikov in 1956. In later periods he excavated 15 barrows in which human bones and grave goods were found. These materials formed the basis for the description of the late Neolithic Ust-Belaya culture [Dikov, 1977, 1979]. However the barrows' description was brief and did not contain any technico-typological characteristics of the complexes.
In his 1961 paper N.N. Dikov [Dikov, 1961. P. 26] made references to a burin "on a small green silicious flake in antler setting with a handle". In the process of describing the barrow 15 assemblage we have identified a single handle and established the material from which it was made - bone. The handle (length 7.45 cm, width - 2.84 cm) was of sub-rectangular shape in plan and oval in cross-section. One of its ends was rounded and had a notched slot (width - 0.45 cm, depth - 0.9 cm). It had traces of shaving, grinding and polishing on its surface.
Analysis of the handles from the Neolithic and the later cultures of the north of the Far East of Russia assemblages (including from the Ust-Belaya burial site) and the north of the Pacific region lead to the following conclusions:
1. The territories of distribution of the studied bone and antler handles included Yakutia; Indigirka; the north-west coast of the Sea of Okhotsk; the north-west coast of the Bering Sea; Baranov cape, Chukotka; the Chukchi peninsula; the western and the eastern coasts of Central Kamchatka; the north-west coast of Kamchatka; the Saint Lawrence and Punuk islands in the Bering Strait; and the Arctic part of Alaska: cape Barrow, cape Hop, and cape Denbigh.
2. The classifying elements of the handles have been identified: integrity of an item (consists of two parts / solid), fixture type (a slot / socket), a slot/socket location with regard to the long axis of the tool (end / side). Quite often at the end with the slot/socket there was a groove for winding, and at the opposite end - a hole for suspension (quite often that end was flattened).
3. The technological aspects of the Ust-Belaya burial site handle, namely a shallow through slot at the rounded end of the item (without any ledges for tying a cord) rose questions about the method of the burin fixation, since it would have been difficult to fix a plant fiber cord or a leather strap used for fixing a tool in a slot on a tapering polished surface of the handle. Also, there were no characteristic traces of winding. All the described above technical characteristics pointed to the possible ritual purpose of the tool.
No handles identical to the Ust-Belaya one have been found in the cultures of the north of the Far East or Alaska, however the typologically similar ones (with the end slot) were commonly present in the neo- (old-) Eskimo cultures - with a deeper slot, with cord ledges, and a hole for suspension.
Dikov N.N. Preliminary data on the archaeological excavations in Chukotka in 1959 // Papers of the Chukchi Regional Museum / Editor in charge N.N. Dikov. – Magadan, 1961. – Issue II. – P. 21-36.
Dikov N.N. Archaeological sites of Kamchatka, Chukotka, Upper Kolyma (Asia at the junction with America in antiquity). – M.: Science, 1977. – 391 p.
Dikov N.N. Ancient cultures of the north-east Asia. (Asia at the junction with America in antiquity). – M.: Science, 1979. – 352 p.