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

Transitional industries of the North-East Europe and their importance for the study of the transition from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic in Eastern Europe.

P.Yu. Pavlov

Institute of language, literature and history, Komi RC, Ural branch of RAS, Syktyvkar




One of the most important achievements of the past decade in the archeology of the European part of Russia was the discovery of sites belonging to the so-called transitional industries from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic (38-28 ka BP) in the north-east of East European plain and in the western foothills of the Middle, Northern and Polar Urals, in the basins of the Pechora and the Kama rivers [Pavlov, 2009. PP. 35-40]. This group included four camp sites: Mammontovaya Kurjya, Byzovaya, Garchi, and Zaozerje [Pavlov, 2015. PP. 50-59]. a common characteristic of all these sites was the presence in the lithic materials of convex-plane bifaces typical for the Central- and East-European Middle Paleolithic industries of Kielmessergruppen type [Bosinski, 1967]. Alongside with the Middle Paleolithic shapes of the tools inventory the complexes of the aforementioned sites contained attributes which were in a greater or smaller degree characteristic for the Upper Paleolithic.

The transitional sites of the region could be arranged in  two groups.

The first of them included the sites of the Szeleta type (according to M.V. Anikovich) industries of Central and Eastern Europe (Mammontovaya Kurjya (?), Byzovaya, and Garchi I) [Pavlov, 2012. PP. 6-23]. The lithic materials of the Kostenkovsko–Streletsky culture site Garchi I contained a wide array of various side scrapers and back edge convex-plane bifaces. A characteristic feature of the complex was the archaic primary knapping technique - the counterstrike knapping of flint pebbles [Girya, Pavlov, 2011. PP. 24-32]. Blade technique was practically absent, there were no bone tools or decorations in the site's materials. The Upper Paleolithic component was represented with scrapers with ventral hewing and triangular bifacial projectile points [Pavlov, 2012. PP. 6-23]. The lithic materials of Byzovaya site consisted predominantly of the Middle Paleolithic elements (side scrapers, back edge convex-plane bifaces), the Upper Paleolithic component was represented with scrapers, including "grattoir caréné" (the carinated scrapers).  The finds included antlers with traces of working [Pavlov, 2012. PP. 6-23; Slimak et al., 2011. РР. 841-845]. Basic characteristics of these sites' complexes were quite in line with the general characteristics of the final Middle Paleolithic industries [Slimak et al., 2011. РР. 841-845].

Zaozerje camp site belonged to the second group of sites the material complex of which was dominated by the Upper Paleolithic elements.

The primary knapping technique was represented with the end-face nucleuses. The tools set consisted mostly of the blade group of tools represented by blades and bladelets with edge retouch, points and burins. There was a distinct group of tools with archwise retouched or blunted edge. Scrapers were mostly of the high shape, a significant part of which, similar to the first group sites, had ventral hewing. Side scrapers and back edge knives on convex-plane bifaces represented the Middle Paleolithic component of the lithic material of the site. A most important characteristic of the complex was the presence of bone tools (antler and tusk (?) arrowheads, points and borers) on river mollusc shells and fossil  crinoids. The tools complex of the site in addition to the Middle Paleolithic shapes of lithic tools contained all critical elements characteristic for the Upper Paleolithic culture. It was indicative that in terms of certain categories of stone items (the segmental tools), the use of shells and fossils for making ornaments, the Zaozerje site complex had lots of similarities with the Mediterranean group Upper Paleolithic sites [Vanhaeren, D’Errico, 2006. PP. 1-24; Conard, 2007. PP. 2001-2037].

Thus in the north-east periphery of East-European Plain and in the western foothills of the Middle, Northern and Polar Urals there were several transitional sites from the Middle to the Upper Paleolithic of two types - one of the Szeleta type (Mammontovaya Kurjya (?), Byzovaya, and Garchi I), and the second - with the elements of the Upper Paleolithic Mediterranean type culture (Zaozerje). It should be noted that the same type of transitional industries were present in the center of East-European Plain, specifically, in the Kostenkovsko-Borshcevsky district in the Middle Don area (the Kostenkovsko–Streletsky sites and the sites of the IV level of Kostenki XIV site type) [Sinitsyn, 2003. РР.89-108]. The coexistence in Eastern Europe of at least two different types of transitional industries reflected, in all probability, various contacts between the two types of sapienses - the Homo sapiens neandertalensis and the Homo sapiens sapiens in the process of the north of Eurasia colonization.




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