The Upper Palaeolithic of Northern Asia

by Sergei A. Vasil'ev
The Upper Palaeolithic of Northern Asia
Sergei A. Vasil'ev
Current Anthropology
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-. Editor. 1985. The prehistory of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edin- burgh University Press. -. 1987. Archaeology and language: The puzzle of Indo- European origins. London: Cape. -. 1g91a. Before Babel: Speculations on the origin of linguis- tic diversity. Cambridge Archaeological fournal I :3-23. -. 1g91b. The Cycladic spirit. London: Thames and Hudson. -. 199%. Archaeology, genetics, and linguistic diversity. Man 27:445-78. RENFREW,c., AND P. BAHN. 1991. Archaeology: Theories, methods, and practice. London: Thames and Hudson. RENFREW, G. STERUD.

c., AND 1969. Close proximity analy- sis: A rapid method for the ordering of archaeological materi- als. American Antiquity 34:%65-77.

s~uss,H. E. 1967. "Bristlecone pine calibration of the radiocar- bon time scale from 4100 BC to I 500 BC," in Radioactive data and methods of low level counting, pp. 143-54. Vienna: Inter- national Atomic Energy Agency.

The Upper Palaeolithic of Northern Asia1

Institute of the History of Material Culture, Dvortsovaia emb. 18, St. Petersburg 191065, Russia.

I4 VII 92
The vastness of the territory of the former Soviet Union has given Palaeolithic archaeologists there the opportu- nity to study Late Pleistocene cultural manifestations from various culture areas within the boundaries of their own country. The sites of the Russian Plain present the brilliant pattern of a European-like Upper Palaeolithic, while the data from the Caucasus and Central Asia show Near Eastern affinities. The Siberian and Far Eastern evi- dence allows us to trace close links with the Japanese, Chinese, and New World sequences. Intensive fieldwork carried out by a rapidly increasing number of regional research centres has revealed several hundred well-

I. 1993 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Re-

search. All rights reserved oo~~-~~o~/~~/~~o~-ooo~$~.oo .

For G. K. Merhart, and G. P. Sosnovskii. Following Sosnov-

friendly discussions and easy access to all kinds of data, including collections not yet published, I am deeply grateful to Z. A. Abra- mova, S. N. Astakhov, N. F. Lisitsyn, and G. V. Sinitsyna [Institute of the History of Material Culture, St. Petersburg), A. P. Derevi- anko, R. S. Vasil'evskii, V. T. Petrin, S. V. Markin, N. D. Ovodov,

Y. V. Grichan, Y. P. Kholiushkin, and P. V. Volkov [Institute of Archaeology, Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences, No- vosibirsk), A. L. Kungurov [Altai State University, Barnaul), N. I. Drozdov and E. V. Akimova [Laboratory of the Archaeology and Palaeogeography of Central Siberia, Krasnoiarsk), N. P. Makarov and A. S. Vdovin [Krasnoiarsk Regional Museum), G. I. Medvedev,

M. P. Aksenov, N. A. Savel'ev, S. N. Perzhakov, 0.V. Zadonin,

A. V. Generalov, and T. A. Abdulov [Laboratory of Human Palaeo- ecology, Irkutsk State University), I. I. Kirillov, M. V. Konstanti- nov, A. V. Konstantinov, V. K. Kolosov, and S. G. Vasil'ev [Chita Pedagogical College), and many others. My thanks go to S. M. Tseitlin, A. F. Yamskikh, G. Y. Zubareva, N. M. Ermolova, A. K. Kasparov, Y. S. Svezhentsev, and many other scientists for very valuable discussions concerning the geological and ecological set- ting of the sites.

documented stratified sites here that have yielded rich collections of stone, bone, and antler artefacts. In this paper I shall deal with the general features of Upper Palaeolithic evolution in Northern Asia. For more de- tailed information I refer readers to the recent reviews of Larichev, Khol'ushkin, and Laricheva (I9 87, I988, I990).

As early as the 1880s) when I. T. Savenkov discovered Afontova Gora in Krasnoiarsk, he was astonished by the coexistence in the assemblages of heavy "Acheulian- like" and Mousterian-type tools with miniature blade- lets, end scrapers, and even various antler and bone ob- jects that are typologically within the range of the European Upper Palaeolithic. As a result of more than a century of intensive fieldwork by Russian prehistorians, it has become clear that this phenomenon is not acci- dental but recurrent in hundreds of clearly stratified as- semblages. At the same time, an enormous variety of preceramic industries has been identified.

Current Palaeolithic studies are characterised by in- creasing interest in the distinctive features of cultural develoiment in different parts of the world. Typology and assemblage comparison are crucial for studies of this kind. Although the characteristics of Siberian lithics are well-known, the problem of "translating" these traits into typological terms is far from being solved. A num- ber of scholars have followed Z. A. Abramova in her attempt to impose a modified European typological framework on the Siberian data. This approach is appeal- ing because of its accessibility, but it tends to overlook the particular character of the lithics examined. Archae- ologists from Irkutsk University, in contrast, have tried to develop their own typological glossaries, totally ig- noring the rich European experience. Practically speak- ing, however, these efforts tend to be restricted to mud- dled terminological innovations that are not always shared by scholars from other countries, with the result that the general picture only becomes more complicated.


The characteristics of the Palaeolithic of Siberia have been addressed by Savenkov and later by B. E. Petri,

skii, the former academician A. P. Okladnikov devoted many pages to the specific character of the Northern Asian Stone Age sequence. In the 1950s he proposed two stages (or "cycles") in the development of the Siberian Upper Palaeolithic-the Mal'tinian and the Afontovian. Whereas in the former stage cultural development gen- erally corresponded to European norms, in the latter stage there was a return to an archaic-like pattern in stone tool manufacture. This Siberian-type Final Palaeo- lithic, he argued, persisted until the 8th to 6th millen- nium B.c., when it was replaced by the Early Neolithic ("Khin"') (Okladnikov I950). With the discoveries in Mongolia and the Altai and Trans-Baikal areas he identi- fied a third stage, the Levallois, chronologically corresponding to the Late Mousterian-Early Upper Palaeo- lithic of the European sequence. The main typological features of the Levallois industry were heavy cores for blades, discoidal cores, retouched blade-knives, borers, side scrapers, choppers, and notched tools. The origin of this Levallois industry has been seen in the Late Mous- terian of Central Asia and Iran (Okladnikov and Kirillov 1980, Okladnikov I 98 I). (Elsewhere Okladnikov has used the traditional terms "Levallois-Mousterian" and "Early Upper Palaeolithic" instead of "Levallois stage" or "Levallois entity" [Okladnikov 19831.) The technolog- ical advances of the Levallois stage prepared the way for a particular Northern Asian feature-wedgelike core technology. The Mal'tinian stage Okladnikov sometimes treated as a phase in the development of the Sibe- rian lithic industries and sometimes viewed as intrusive into the sequence.

S. N. Zamiatnin's (195 I)position paper on local differ- entiation in the Palaeolithic was a turning point in the discussion of the major Palaeolithic culture-historical areas, and many of his assertions remain incontestable. His argument can be summarised as follows:

I. Local cultural differentiation was absent prior to the Upper Palaeolithic.

Three major culture areas can be identified in the Upper Palaeolithic: the Mediterranean-African, the Eu- ropean Periglacial, and the Sino-Siberian, the last of which is so distinctive from the others that the Euro- pean Periglacial area might be treated as a province of the Mediterranean-African.

The Sino-Siberian area is characterised by the oc- currence of archaic components in the lithic industries (side scrapers, Mousterian-like points, and, rarely, hand- axe-like tools) in curious (from the European point of view) coexistence with light-duty Upper Palaeolithic tools (small end scrapers, borers, points, and, rarely, bu- rins), bone items, and art objects. The reason for local differentiation, according to Zamiatnin, was the relative

large groups the prehistoric population Okladnikov, in contrast, believed that the distinctive features of cultural development were a reflection of par- ticular forms of hunter-gatherer subsistence in different environments.

In the 1960-80s archaeoloaical discussion revolved


around G. P. Grigor'ev's original and intriguing concept of a "Post-Mousterian," invented to cover the survival of Mousterian elements into Upper Palaeolithic times in the Afro-Asian area. According to Grigor'ev (1977:60), in Asia there was no abrupt shift in tool kits during the Middle-to-Upper-Palaeolithic transition, and all the assemblages had both Mousterian and Upper Palaeo- lithic elements, the archaic elements surviving into the Holocene.

The Asian Post-Mousterian is characterised by Mous- terian technology-discoidal and Levallois cores, oc- casionally flat cores-and by tool varieties character- istic of the Acheulian such as choppers, but the main body of the industry consists of side scrapers, Mousterian points, denticulated tools, and at the same time, burins, end scrapers, rare bone tools, and even ornaments made of stone and shell.

Volume 34, Number I, February 1993 1 83

The idea of a Post-Mousterian has been developed in a provocative monograph by M. D. Dzhurakulov (1987) on the question whether the Samarkandskaia site be- longs to the Sino-Siberian or the Near Eastern Palaeo- lithic culture area. Whereas Grigor'ev defined the Post- Mousterian mainly as a recurrent combination of certain tool classes, Dzhurakulov suggests, first, that the differ- ence between the European and the Asian Palaeolithic lies in their internal structures (the European being char- acterised by archaeological cultures and the Asian by entities of other kinds) and, furthermore, that the Palaeolithic outside Europe reflects a different tempo of culture change, no development within a culture se- quence being discernible. Dzhurakulov also points to a difference in the characteristics of certain tool classes. In the European Upper Palaeolithic, for example, each particular culture has only one or two kinds of side scraper, in contrast to the great diversity of side scrapers in Siberian assemblages. Comparative analysis of the major culture areas in the Palaeolithic on the level of individual classes of the inventory is impossible; only the recurrent combination of tool classes can constitute a basis for study. "Any Upper Palaeolithic assemblage in Central Asia and Siberia, whatever its date, will differ from a European one in the presence of side scrapers or denticulated and notched tools or choppers, and its lithic industry will be based largely if not entirely on Mousterian technology, whether Levallois or not" (Dzhurakulov I987: 83). Archaic elements persisted into the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe also, and therefore comparison can only be in general terms (p. I 14):

The differencebetween the Upper Paleolithic in Eu

rope and the Near East, on the one hand, and the Si

berian Palaeolithic or the Samarkandskaia assem-

blages, on the other, is not that Mousterian forms

occur at Samarkandskaia but not in the Upper

palaeolithic of Europe or the Near East. . . . The true

distinction between these two major areas consists

in the following: in Europe, as in the Near East,

Mousterian (occasionally Acheulian, such as cleavers

and choppers) elements are true survivals.

In sum, Dzhurakulov considered the Sino-Siberian area one vast region covering all of Asia (except the Near East) and probably even Australia, while noting differ- ences between Siberian and Central Asian and Chinese assemblages, on the one hand, and the roughly contem- poraneous sites in Southeast Asia (the Son Vi culture, for instance), on the other.


The distinctive characteristics of the Palaeolithic of a given region can be identified in terms of the recurrent combination of certain tool classes and common fea- tures of lithic technology, including the characteristics of blanks (the role of the flake, blade, and bladelet com- ponents). In typological analysis general tool classes should be the unit of comparison. Archaic elements (pebble tools, side scrapers, Mousterian points, denticu- lated and notched tools) are of the first importance. The fine details of tool morphology that are crucial to the identification of local cultural manifestations should be omitted.

Beyond this, the distinctive characteristics of the Palaeolithic can be identified in terms of its internal structure. The main problem can be formulated as fol- lows: Can the Palaeolithic of the area under study be divided into a number of cultural entities, restricted in space and time, that are comparable with the local ar- chaeological cultures of the most recent periods? Here the nature of culture change-the possibility of delineat- ing the temporal structure of cultural development-is of particular interest.

The specific features of the Palaeolithic can also be discerned by tracing its evolution over time. A modified evolutionism seems to have resurfaced after the long dominance of the particularistic culture-historical ap- proach. Increasing numbers of scholars have begun to think that, in spite of pronounced local diversity, some general characteristics can be traced: "The term 'periodi- sation' is a stadial notion in a strict and unambiguous sense. . . . Two dialectically interdependent laws-the stadiality of development and its disproportionality- are traced in prehistory" (Gladilin and Sitlivyi 1986:12- 13). Thus stadial and local approaches are seen as two closely interrelated aspects of the study of cultural de- velopment, and ways of synthesising these aspects, once considered opposed, have been proposed.

The focus of interest is the nature of the Middle-to- Upper-Palaeolithic transition-whether it was a sharp techno-typological break or a gradual transformation. Of equal importance is the nature of the cultural changes at the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary, including the ap- pearance of geometric microliths. The stages of evolu- tion of the Siberian stone industry coincided with the European ones neither chronologically nor typologically. The elaboration of a general periodisation scheme for Siberia, revived after a long hiatus, is of particular im- portance in this connection. The brief survey given be- low is mostly based on the scheme pioneered by Abra- mova (1989)~ although the culture-chronological scheme developed for the southern part of central Siberia by a group of Irkutsk scholars is not without interest (Vorob'eva et al. 1990).


I shall confine myself to sites in southern Siberia (fig. I). The western Siberian Plains have produced only a few sites. The main multicomponent sites are concentrated in the Altai Mountains, the Tom' River basin, the vast area of the upper and (partly) middle reaches of the Yeni- sei (the western and eastern Sayan ranges and the Minusinsk Basin between them), the Upper Angara and Upper Lena, and the Trans-Baikal region (the Khi- lok, Chikoi, and Selenga Valleys in the west and the Ingoda in the east). Isolated groups of sites on the Al- dan, Oliekma, and Vitim Rivers in Yakutia must also be mentioned.

The temporal span of the sites in different areas (fig. 21 varies widelv. For instance, while western Siberia is represented by infrequent Upper Palaeolithic and Meso- lithic finds, the Altai region has produced a number of Mousterian (mostly cave) and Early Upper Palaeolithic sites. In the latter region the Final Palaeolithic is also well represented, but the middle stage of the sequence remains unknown. In the Yenisei Valley a Final Palaeo- lithic has been studied in detail, but very few data are available on the Mousterian and Early Upper Palaeo- lithic occupations or on the Holocene portion of the pre- ceramic culture sequence.

The Upper Angara and Upper Lena Valleys provide perhaps the most complete Stone Age record, a great number of Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites hav- ing been discovered there. The chronology of the Mous- terian and Early Upper Palaeolithic remains unclear, and the majority of sites pre-dating the Final Pleistocene prove to have been redeposited. In the Trans-Baikal area the Mousterian was practically unknown until very re- cent times; rich, deeply stratified Early Upper Palaeo- lithic sites are well represented. The middle phase of the Upper Palaeolithic is obscure, but the cultural develop- ment from the Final Palaeolithic to the Neolithic is well documented. In Yakutia many sites belonging to the sec- ond half of the Upper Palaeolithic and the Mesolithic have been excavated, but the early dates obtained for the so-called Diuktai culture are more than questionable (Abramova 1979, Yi and Clark 1985).

There are many differences between sites in geological setting. The Zyriansk glacial, roughly corresponding to the Wiirm, is separated from the previous glaciation by the Kazantsevo interglacial and consists of an early (Muruktinian, Ermakovian) glaciation followed by the complex Karginsk mega-interstadial (from 50,ooo-45,000 to 24,ooo--~~,ooo years B.P.) and the Sar- tan glaciation (from 24,ooo-zz,ooo to II,OOO-~o,ooo years B.P.) In the terminal phase of the latter, a number of interstadials, marked bv traces of buried soils, have been identified. certainly;' in the different parts' of so enormously vast a geographical area many local strati- graphic schemes are in use. The correlation of the move- ments of the ice sheet in the northern part of western and central Siberia with the glacial events observed in mountainous interior southern Siberia remains dubious.

Thus there are formidable obstacles to the com~ari- son of these areas and the search for regularities relevant not only to the Yenisei or the Angara Valley but to southern Siberia in general. The time span between 16,ooo-15,ooo and ~o,ooo years B.P. offers the best op- portunity for study because the overwhelming majority of preceramic assembages falls within these limits.


Traces of the Mousterian are now well established in southern Siberia and represent several variants, of which the Levallois-Mousterian is certainly the most wide- spread. The principal site assigned to this variant is the multicomponent Denisova Cave. Many similar sites

FIG. I. Siberian Palaeolithic sites. 0,Mousterian: I, Kaminnaia, Denisova Cave, Sibiriachikha, Strashnaia

Cave, Ust'Karakol I; z, Tiumechin I and 2, Ust'Kanskaia Cave; 3, Dvuglazka Cave; 4, Mokhovo 2. W, Early

Upper Palaeolithic: j, Ust'Karakol 2, Anui I and 2; 6, Kara-Bom; 7, Maloialomanskaia Cave; 8, Kara-Tenesh; 9, Malaia Syia; 10, Arembovskogo; 11, Varvarina Gora; 12, Sannyi Mys; 13, Tolbaga. e, Middle Upper Palaeolithic: 14, Tomskaia; I j, Achinskaia; 16, Tarachikha, Shlenka, Afanas'eva Gora, Kurtak 4; 17, Ui I; 18,

Ust'Kova; 19, Igeteiskii Log I; 20, Mal'ta, Buret'; 21, Priiskovoe. A, Final Palaeolithic: 22, Chernoozer'e 2; 23, Shul'binka; 24, Mogochino I; 25, Srostki; 26, Ushlep 3; 27, Shumikha I; 28, Il'inka 2, Bedarevo 2, Shorokhovo

I; 29, Beriozovyi Ruchei I; 30, Afontova Gora 1-4; 31, Druzhinikha; 32, Pereselencheskii Punkt, Bol'shaia Slizneva, Listvenka; 33, Strizhova Gora; 34, Biriusa I; 35, Kokorevo 1-4, 4a, and 6, Novoselovo 1-8, Kurtak 3, Aeshka I and 2, Tashtyk I and 2, Chegerak; 36, Maininskaia, Ui 2, Dzhoi, Kantegir; 37, Golubaia I and 4, Sizaia 8; 38, Fediaevo, Shamotnyi Zavod, Sosnovyi Bor; 39, Krasnyi Iar I; 40, Verkholenskaia Gora I and 2; 41, Makarovo 2 and 3, Shishkino 2; 42, Kurla 1-4; 43, Oshurkovo; 44, Studenoe I, Ust'Menza 1-5; 45, Tanga; 46, Sokhatino 4; 47, Diuktai Cave; 48, Ezhantsy.

Years, mill.

-4 I



chikha cave


b -37



s -36 -35

-34 Syia

s-33 Varvarina
-4 Gora

g -32


Url' Karakol I


9 I






Kurlak IV


I~al'ta 23


-" 18tlret1


' -20 -19 lli I Sl~lenka


-18 t

-I7 I


c I

-I6 I I



-5 I I


)Kokorevo I

1 '~ai~~inswaia I 1



-13 I I IDi~~klai I 1Gnl11baiaI I I I I I I I cave

-12 I I~crkht,lenskaia

-I I I I bnra I I I lS111dentmI I I I


1-1 1-2 1-3 !-4

FIG. 2. Chronological positons of some key Northern Asian Late Pleistocene sites (based on c14dates). I, Mousterian; 2, Early Upper Palaeolithic; 3, Middle Upper Palaeolithic; 4, Final Palaeolithic.

have been discovered in the Altai (Strashnaia, Ust1Kan- skaia Cave, Tiumechin I [Derevianko et al. ~ggoa, Shun'kov 19901). To the east there are Dvuglazka Cave in Khakassia (Abramova et al. 1991)) the sites of the Sagly Valley in southern Tuva (Astakhov 1986)~ and those of the Upper Angara and Upper Lena (Vorob'eva et al. 1990). Radiocarbon dates obtained from Denisova Cave fall between 39,ooo and 34,000 years B.P., while Strashnaia Cave has yielded a date of more than ~~,OOO-~O,OOO

years B.P.

A Typical Mousterian is represented by one very sig- nificant site, Sibiriachikha Cave, also in the Altai, which has yielded Neanderthal remains. Radiocarbon dates es- timate the age of this assemblage between 42,000 and 33,000 years B.P. The identification of a Denticulated Mousterian is open to question; it has been reported from one site, Tiumechin 2, where the artefacts were redeposited (Shun'kov 1990). The number of Mousterian facies in southern Siberia will doubtless increase in the course of further investigation. It is clear that we are still very far from an adequate understanding of this phe- nomenon. Kaminnaia Cave may represent a distinctive culture pattern, but the originality of the lithics may be partly explained by the nature of the raw material used. I am inclined to believe that the Siberian Mousterian is quite comparable with the European and Near Eastern sequences and therefore that the origin of the specifi- cally Northern Asian pattern of cultural development does not extend into the Lower Palaeolithic.

The earliest known Upper Palaeolithic industries are characterised by the survival of many Levallois-Mousterian traits and may be considered to arise from the underlying Middle Palaeolithic cultures. Such sites as Kara-Bom, Kara-Tenesh, and Malaoialomanskaia Cave in the Altai, Arembovskogo on the Angara, and Sokhatino I, Varvarina Gora, Tolbaga, and the lower- most horizons of Sannyi Mys in the Trans-Baikal area (Derevianko et al. ~ggoa, Vorobleva et al. 1990, Okladni- kov and Kirillov 1980, Bazarov et al. 1982) fall within this stage. Malaia Syia in Khakassia (Larichev 1978) might perhaps be added to this list, although the charac- ter of the assemblage is impossible to evaluate in detail. The shared features are large, wide blades detached from flat and prismatic-like cores, retouched blades, side scrapers, Mousterian points, small points, chisel-like pieces, burins, and notched and denticulated tools. The dates fall between 34,000 and zq,ooo years B.P. One could label these industries "Epi-Levallois" for their highly elaborated Levallois technology, suggesting that this tradition may have developed from a preceding Lev- allois-Mousterian (fig. 3). Such characteristic Upper Palaeolithic cultural elements as art objects and elabo- rate boneworking appear at this stage. The earliest dates are roughly contemporaneous with the beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe, which seems scarcely ac- cidental.

That the initial phase of the Siberian Upper Palaeo- lithic might be more complicated than this is suggested by the discovery of Mousterian-like industries with foli- ated bifaces in the lower layers of UstlKarakol I (Derevianko et al. 19goa). Mokhovo 2, in the Kuzbass area,

FIG. 3. The Early Upper Palaeolithic stone industry from Tolbaga (after M. V. Konstantinov). I, 2, 6, retouched blades; 3, borer; 4, point; 5, side scraper; 7, end scraper; 8 and 9, cores.

where the artefacts were associated with a thick buried tains retouched and truncated bladelets, small points, soil presumably of Karginsk age, has yielded a similar borers, end scrapers, splintered pieces, etc., and, at the lithic industry (Derevianko et al. 19gob). We can look same time, a developed pebble technology, many chop- forward to clarification of the problem of cultural differ- pers, Levallois elements, and side scrapers (Gerasimov entiation in this period through the further investigation 1964). Along with Mal'ta's "twin," Buret', other sites of such important sites as Anui I and 2, UstlKarakol 2, with bladelet industries that share a number of features and others. with it are Achinskaia on the Chulym River (Anikovich 19761, Tomskaia in western Siberia (Abramova and Ma- tiuschenko I 973), and Tarachikha, Afanas'eva Gora, and


Shlenka on the Yenisei (Abramova et al. 1991). The The lithic industry of the well-known site representing morphology of the tools in these assemblages varies, the middle stage (or "Classical phase," as the Irkutsk however, and no true Mal'ta culture can be envisioned archaeologists would have it) of the Upper Palaeolithic, beyond the Angara. Other industries with a more pro- Mal'ta, is based on small blades derived from prismatic nounced flake component-Shestakovo (excavated by cores of many different varieties. The assemblage con- Okladnikov) and Ui I (Vasil'ev 1990; fig. 4)-also dis

FIG. 4. The Middle Upper Palaeolithic stone, bone, and antler industry and ornaments from Ui I, layer 2. I, 3,

11, retouched bladelets; 2, pendant; 4-7, 13, IS, 23, end scrapers; 8, 9, bone borers; 10, fragment of an antler point; 12, 14, chisel-like tools; 16, side scraper; 17-19, 21, 22, 25, cores; 20, composite tool; 24, pebble retoucher.

play a marked similarity in technology. These sites are estimated to date to between z7,ooo-z5,ooo and 18,ooo-17,000 years B.P. The recently discovered site Alexeevsk z on the Upper Lena has yielded lithics very similar to those from Tarachilzha and the other Yenisei sites and is believed to be of Karginsk age (0. V. Za- donin, personal communication, I990).

Survivals of this stage persisted into the Final Pleisto- cene, clearly contrasting with the contemporaneous ar- chaic-like industries. For instance, the blade assemblage of layer 3 at Golubaia I on the Yenisei (Astakhov 1986) might be interpreted in this way. A complex combina- tion of features characteristic of different stages is some- times seen, for example, in the assemblages of the upper horizons of Krasnyi Iar I on the Angara (Abramova I97 8) and of Ushlep 3 in the Altai (Kungurov 1987).

The complexity of cultural development during the Karginsk epoch is indicated by the recent discovery by

N. F. Lisitsyn of Kurtak 4 on the Yenisei (Drozdov et al. 1990). A series of radiocarbon dates places this site between 27,000 and z3,ooo years B.P. The flake industry is based on simple cores with multiple platforms and discoidal cores. The tool kit consists of side scrapers, end scrapers, borers, retouched flakes, and notched and denticulated tools. The crudeness of the assemblage may be partly a result of functional considerations, that is, the predominance of traces of the initial stages of stone chipping. This assemblage has close affinities to those from some Trans-Baikal sites (Priiskovoe, Kunalei) that are now thought to be earlier than the Terminal Pleisto- cene (Bazarov et al. 1982, Tseitlin, Konstantinov, and Odoev I987, Konstantinov and Konstantinov I 99 I).


The Final Pleistocene witnessed a meat varietv of indus-


tries. One of the best-known is the Afontova culture, which dominated the Yenisei Valley between 16,000 and ~o,ooo years B.P. Sites belonging to this culture are densely distributed along the Yenisei from the Krasnoi- arsk area in the north to the western Sayan Mountains on the south (Abramova et al. 1991, Astakhov 1986, Vasil'ev 1990). The lithic industry is characterised by the predominance of flakes detached from heavy single- and double-platform cores made on pebbles. This tech- nique is accompanied by an elaborate microblade tech- nology based on wedge-like microcores. Side scrapers, end scrapers, and chisel-like implements predominated, and a number of borers, becs, denticulated and notched tools, and choppers were found (fig. 5).

Alongside Afontova but slightly more recent is the so-called Kokorevo culture (Abramova 1983). In this in- dustry large blades rather than flakes predominate. The character of the microcores and tool morphology are similar to those of the Afontova culture, but the fre- quencies of the different tool classes are clearly distinct Mousterian-like ~oints, burins, and retouched blades are represented by a signifi'cant seiies of pieces here but rare in the Afontova culture. An assemblage combining traits of these two cultures has recently been found (Vishniatskii et al. 1986).

Industries showing striking morphological similari- ties to the Afontova culture are known beyond the Yeni- sei Valley-in the Ob' River basin (Mogochino I [Petrin 19861)) in the Altai (Srostki and other sites [Sosnovskii 19411)~ on the Angara (Medvedev 1971)) and in the Trans-Baikal area (Oshurkovo [Bazarov et al. 19821). Ap- parently this tradition was not restricted to the Yenisei but widespread throughout Siberia. Some local lower- order affinities can be discerned in different areas of its dispersion. The Kokorevo culture also has analogies be- yond the Yenisei Valley but only to the west at Shul'binka on the Upper Irtysh (Taimagambetov 1987) and Shumikha on the Tom' (Markin 1986).

Within the Final Palaeolithic (or "Early Mesolithic," in the Irkutsk terminology) of the Upper Angara, a num- ber of sites of the Verkholenskaia Gora type have been investigated. The most characteristic features of this culture are bifacial knives, wedgelike microcores, end scrapers, side scrapers, choppers, splintered pieces, and bone harpoons (Alzsenov 1980). All of the traditions identified in the Upper Angara and Upper Lena Basins (Badai, Verkholensk, Makarovo) appear to have much in common.

In Yakutia a Diuktai culture has been distinguished in terms of the presence of foliated bifaces. Stone chip- ping here is characterised by heavy cores with parallel detachment of blades and flakes and by wedgelike mi- crocores. The inventory includes bifacial knives, side scrapers, end scrapers, burins, retouched bladelets, and splintered pieces (Mochanov 1976). Sites with foliated bifaces similar to those from Diuktai are now well known from various parts of Siberia: from Sokhatino 4 in the Trans-Baikal area (Olzladnikov and Kirillov 1980), several sites on the Middle Angara (Volokitin 1982), and Tiumechin 4 in the Altai (discovered by M. V. Shun'kov). Comparison of bifacial scrapers of the Afon- tova culture with bifaces from Diuktai assemblages re- veals that they are quite comparable in morphology. A beautiful foliated biface has come from Ust'Kova on the Angara, but the age of this puzzling site and the clarity of the breakdown into three assemblages (Drozdov et al. 1990) are unclear. Whereas the researchers consider these assemblages distinct in age and cultural identity, the evidence of intense cryoturbation at the site must be kept in mind. Some types of artefacts and the charac- teristics of the lithic technology of Ust'Kova are similar to those of Mal'ta.

This survey cannot, of course, embrace all the known sites and cultural ~henomena of the Final Palaeolithic, but one can note the following:

I. The Final Palaeolithic of Northern Asia is charac- terised by the repeated co-occurrence of archaic ele- ments in lithic technology and typology with the fully elaborated Upper Palaeolithic tool kit, bone and antler items, and art objects, that is, with all the cultural mani- festations characteristic of the European Upper Palaeo- lithic. This combination and the wide distribution of microblade technology based on wedgelike microcores are distinctive features of the Siberian pattern.

FIG. 5.Final Palaeolithic stone and bone industry and ornaments (Afontova culture), from Ui 2, layers 2-7,
1-3, beads; 4-6, fragments of bone needles; 7-9, 22, 23, cores; 10, 14, IS, end scrapers; 11, borer; 12, 13,
backed bladelets; 16, composite tool; 17, retouched flake; 18, chisel-like tool; 19, 21, side scrapers; 20, bone
object; 24, hammerstone.

2. The Siberian Final Palaeolithic is lacking in cul-


tural entities strictly limited in time and space. Mapping of the distribution of certain elements might help in delineating culture areas. For example, the elongated wedgelike microcore with its platform formed by the removal of a single spa11 (the so-called Goby type) occurs only in the eastern part of the area under study (Yakutia, the Trans-Baikal region, the Angara and Upper Lena Ba- sins). Much the same can be said of the spatial distribu- tion of transversal burins, and bone harpoons are found only around Lake Baikal.

The distribution of the Siberian Final Palaeolithic seems to be spatially restricted. It appears from the lim- ited data available (from Cheroozer'e 2, Shikaevka, and a few other sites [Petrin 19861) that the culture sequence of the western Siberian plains west of the Ob' River val- ley was much more similar to the European develop- ment. Geometric microliths of Final Pleistocene age have been reported. The same European-like character persisted into the Mesolithic (Starkov 1980).

The problem of culture change in Siberia at the Pleis- tocene/Holocene boundary was long the subject of lively debate. In opposition to Okladnikov's (1965) idea of an Asian "Epi-Palaeolithic" (the survival of Upper Palaeo- lithic traditions into the succeeding period), Irkutsk scholars advanced the notion of a southern Siberian Mesolithic. Since then, the discovery of earlier sites cul- turally similar to Holocene ones has required moving the lower limit of the "Mesolithic" to 12,000 and then even to 18,ooo-I 5,ooo years B.P. (~edvedev 1971, Ak- senov 1980). Despite the different terms in use, what is at issue appears to be a single Final Pleistocene-Early Holocene culture. On the basis of the scant data relevant to this period from the Altai and the Yenisei Basin it might be said that slightly modified Palaeolithic tradi- tions survived into Holocene times. In the Upper Angara and Upper Lena areas cultural development in the Early Holocene continued the Palaeolithic sequence with the addition of some new elements (multifaceted burins, adzes [Medvedev, Mikhniuk, and Shmygun I975 ).

There appear, then, to have been two broad develop- ments in Siberia in the Early Holocene. To the east of the Angara, in Yakutia, at IO,SOO-6,ooo years B.P., a Sumnagin culture predominated. It is characterised by the preponderance of the bladelet industry, prismatic and pencil-like cores, retouched and truncated bladelets, burins, end scrapers, borers, splintered pieces, and notched bladelets. A series of double obliquely truncated small blades-true geometric "parallelograms"-has been found (Mochanov 1976). The influence of this cul- ture extended west as far as the Yenisei Basin, as is evi- denced by the lowest layers at Kazachka on the Yenisei's left tributary, the River Kan (Savel'ev, Generalov, and Abdulov I984).


If the reasoning outlined above is essentially correct, cultural development in Northern Asia in the Late Pleis- tocene radicallv differed from the Euro~ean and Near Eastern patterns. We can now be certain that this dis- tinctiveness does not originate in the unknown depths of the Early Palaeolithic and that the abundance of chop- pers in Siberian assemblages of Final Pleistocene age is not connected with the "pebble-tool background" of the Asian Palaeolithic (in Movius's 119491 sense). Unfortu- nately, only a few pre-Mousterian sites are yet known, and the majority of these are questionable either from the point of view of the authentity of the artefacts (Fili- moshki, Ulalinka, Ust'tu, "the quartz Palaeolithic" of the Baikal) or on geological grounds (Diring). A number of sites on the Upper Angara and the Upper Lena seem to be of pre-Mousterian age, but we must await clarifi- cation of this ~roblem. On the basis of the data at hand we can now trace in southern Siberia only the Acheulian with bifaces (some surface occurrences recently discov- ered by Astakhov [~ggo] in southernmost Tuva). The Siberian Mousterian falls (at least typologically) within the limits of a "classical" Mousterian. The distinc- tiveness of cultural development in Northern Asia be- gins immediately after it. There is no clear evidence of any "retardation" of the Mousterian; Middle Palaeo- lithic cultures seem to have come to an end in Siberia at approximately the same time as in Europe.

In the following period, instead of abrupt changes in lithic typology and the spread of prismatic core-and- blade technologies, what took place in Asia was a grad- ual enrichment of the Mousterian industries by new, Upper Palaeolithic elements (mostly in lithic typology). The early blade industries, characterised by a combina- tion of Levallois-Mousterian and Upper Palaeolithic traits, were replaced by typical Upper Palaeolithic blade industries only about 28,ooo-27,000 years B.P. (i.e., at a time roughly corresponding to the European Late Auri- gnacian and the beginning of the Gravettian). About 17,ooo-I 5,ooo years B.P. these in turn were replaced by the so-called Siberian-type Final Palaeolithic, contempo- raneous with the European Magdalenian. Furthermore, there is no evidence of significant change in stone tool kits at the Pleistocene/Holocene boundary. The Meso- lithic, properly speaking, is absent in Siberia, the tradi- tions of the preceding epoch persisting with only slight modification into the Early Holocene. Although cultural development varied in diffferent parts of this vast area, in virtually all cases it is impossible to speak of any microlithisation or geometrisation of the lithic industry.

This brief glimpse of the Siberian sequence shows a distinctive pattern of time-space systematics. World- scale comparative analysis of Upper Palaeolithic cul- tures is beyond the limits of this paper.

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