International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Stone tools from the Ust-Poluy: morphology and petrography (preliminary results).

V.N. Karmanov, T.P. Mayorova, A.V. Gusev

Institute of Language, Literature and History Komi SC RAS, Institute of geology Komi SC RAS, Syktyvkar; Arctic Research Center of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous district, Salekhard





The paper is the first publication of the initial data on the study of stone tolls assemblage from the early Iron Age site Ust Polui. For the early Iron Age archeology the stone tools are, apparently, less informative than the numerous unique artifacts made from other types of materials. However they formed an integral context with the other artifacts and structures, and without their detailed description the picture of the site would have been incomplete.

The studied stone items from Ust Polui sacred place included 361 artifact from the 2006-2015 excavations. The chert artifacts in this group were not numerous - only 23 pieces. (Table 1). Most of the items - 338 pieces were represented by non-silicious ones. On the basis of the study of the morphology and the macro-traces of wear and working we have preliminarily (prior to the use-wear analysis) arranged them into four groups (Table 2). As could be seen from the finished tools and the non-utilitarian items, they were made by means of adaptation of the natural shapes of raw material: pebbles of varying degrees of rounding and their fragments. As a result of the petrographic study of the stone tolls from Ust Polui sacred place we have identified 12 types of rock within the analyzed sample. These included the metamorphic, the aqueous, and the magmatic groups of rock. The mineral raw material used was, approximately in equal proportions, the crystalline schist, varying in its mineral composition; and the aqueous terrigenous rocks (in a general case - aleuropelites, aleurolites, sandstones and their metamorphized variations); the magmatic rocks were represented with individual items. Part of the identified types of rocks from which the stone tolls were made, e.g. the crystalline schist and the meta-aleurolites had clear macroscopic (visible) attributes, which made possible a preliminary examination of all items.

There were no evidences of primary knapping for the creation of a certain type of spalls in the assemblage, nor any signs of bifacial knapping. There was a tendency towards the domination of functionality of the tools over their morphology. At the same time no efforts were spared to give an item a particular shape in order, in the first place, to make its use more comfortable, or, maybe, to improve its aesthetic appearance. In the composition of the tools  group of the examined part of the Ust Polui assemblage (both chert and non-silicious ones) the dominant item was a scraper (34% of the non-silicious tools and 58,8% of the chert items). The pestles (25,5%) and the abrasives (18,6%) were less numerous. This indicated the economic and functional character of the studied assemblage. It is yet too early to say whether this was one set or several, functioning and/or used by different groups of the population in different periods - this should be the subject of further studies including the spatial stone tools distribution analysis.

Some analogues to the Ust Polui items can be found in the  Nyaksimvol 1 hillfort assemblage on  the N. Sosva river. These included pestles and net sinkers [Starodumov, Komova, 2014. P. 32. Fig. 15, 4, 5; Pogodin, 2011]. However these items in the Nyaksimvol materials were scarce which did not allow their correct comparison with the Ust Polui assemblage. An indirect indication of the existence of a long standing tradition of non-silicious scrapers making in the north of Western Siberia could be found in the materials of a medieval hillfort Yarte VI [Plekhanov, 2014. P. 53, 59. Table 25]. Apparently the scarcity of the aforementioned analogies may be an evidence both of the uniqueness of the Ust Polui site, and the insufficient study of the early Iron Age period in the Ob region in general.


Plekhanov A. V. Yarte VI - a medieval hillfort on the Yuribey river (the Yamal peninsula). Catalogue. – Ekaterinburg: "Delovaya Pressa" Publishing House, 2014. – 124 p.

Pogodin A. A. Report on the results of the typological and the use-wear analysis of chert items from  Nyaksimvol 1 hillfort /  Museum of Nature and Man Archive. – Ekaterinburg, 2011.

Starodumov D.O., Komova N.G. Nyaksimvol hillfort: history of research // Nyaksimvol / Ed. Ya. A. Yakovlev. – Tomsk, Khanty-Mansiysk: Tomsk University Press, 2014. – 200 p.

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