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Stratum Plus. 2000. № 1

A. A. Sinitsyn (St.-Petersburg, Russia)

Lower cultural layer of Kostenki 14 (Markina gora) in relation to problems of the most Early Upper Palaeolithic

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Pages: 125-146

The excavations of 1998-99 at Kostenki 14 (Markina gora) obtained important and unusual information for the lowermost cultural layers of the site. Two horizons of archaelogical  materials in association with horse bones were distinguished by A.N.Rogachev in 1953 beneath volcanic ash in the humic deposits at the eastern part of the promontory, where the site is located. Cultural deposits were designated by index IV, the same index that was used for denomination of cultural layer in deluvial sedements under the upper humus at central part of the promontory, where volcanic ash had not been identified, although one supposed that lower layers at different parts of the promontory are remains of distinct settlements. New excavations confirm this supposition, but traditional designation of lower cultural layer was remained till to resolving some problems of stratigraphic correlation. For distinguish the cultural horizons in humic deposits under the volcanic ash on eastern slope from lower cultural layer at the central part of the site, they were designated as IVa and IVb. Accumulation of horse bones of high density was revealed at IVa layer in 1987 on the excavated area of 3 sq.m about. Any regularity in bones distribution was not distinguished. Taking into account almost total absence of stone assemblage, it was explained as a “kill site”, similar with Amvrosievka accumulation of bones. Excavations of 1998-99 did not confirm this interpretation, because all the components of the settlement of long duration were identified on the excavated area: stone and bone artefacts, enormously great number of horse bones, lenses of ash, localities of high degree of accumulation of wood charcoal (fig.3) . Almost complete lack of diagnostic stone tools remains the most important obstacle both for interpretation of site structure and for cultural attribution of assemblage. This feature seems to be very unusual for the palaeolithic sites of Kostenki area. Radiocarbon dates of 33 and 34 kyr for charcoal samples from IVa appears to be a bit rejuvenated because the age of overlying tephra is estimated at 35 kyr.on the background the correlation with one of the eruptions of Campi Flegrei volcanic system in Italy. The stratigraphic position of IVb cultural horizon was precisely defined only at 1999. Cultural and faunal remains lies in the schistose colluvial sediments, without any doubt in secondary position. The most important is the relatively great collection of stone and bone artifacts from this layer, the most part of which were located in small depressions of natural origin at the base of the schistose sediments. The principal significance has a bone assemblage, which includes such things as: horse ribs, one with the polished sloped end, another with artificial linear groove of rectangular section, looks like typical armatured tool of recent palaeolithic periods; mammouth tasks with artificial modifications; points at least of two types, bone and antler mattocks. The most important is the rod from mammouth task with liner decoration. Taking into account the radiocarbon date of 37 kyr for this layer it is the most ancient manifestation of decorative art in East  Europe. Stone assemblage is characterised by the association of blade technological method, some end-scrapers, burins, splintered pieces, and  bifacial tools of different forms. Also a principal meaning has a identification of third, the lowermost in the sequence, cultural horizon  in the deposits of black humus beneath of the schistose colluvial sediments with IVb assemblage. It was represented by lenses of red-brick burned loams on the surface and inside the black humus. The most probable interpretation of these features seems to be its explanation as a remains of real hearth in situ, located on complicated part of ancient microrelief, probably the bank of the river. Although archaeological collection of this horizon is not large, it contain some burins, splintered pieces and a mattock on mammouth task.
The excavation of 1998-99 at Markina gora put in evidence some problems in relation both with stratigraphic and with cultural explanation, the most important of which is the problem of the definition of taxonomic position of archaeological assemblages in the context of the European Early Upper Palaeolithic. The basic point for them is the chrono-stratigraphic position of lower layers of site under volcanic ash, the deposition of which took place at 35 kyr. This age is taken into consideration as a upper chronological limit of materials under discussion. The traditional representation of Early Upper Palaeolithic stage of European perodization is the binary organized system of oppositions, one of which is the Aurgnatian technocomplex. The most common point of view is the intrusive nature of Aurignatian, outside from aboriginal lines of evolution. In contrast, the local components of the opposition, according to the most widespread idea, have both local ancestor and also local descendants. They represent a relatively discrete parts of local evolution sequences, as rule, unilinears.   These are Chatelperronian, Uluzzo, and Szeletian cultural etities. Early Upper Palaeolithic for narrow local (Moravian) part of Cental Europe has a trinomial structure as a system of oppositions of Aurignacian-Szeletian-Bohunican industries. Early Upper Palaeolithic of  vast East Europen area for the moment has well documented representation only at Kostenki-Borschevo region, where it looks like an opposition of  Streltskaia culture and particular industry distinguished as Spitsynskaia culture. Although both Aurignatian and Gravettian affiliations of the last were manifested, it does not appears to be well-grounded. In spite of distinct, sometimes opposite, positions, the problem of the origin of Streletskaia traditions has a real background for its development on the base of  principles of linear gradual evolution. The problem of the origin of Streletskaia industry is impossible to be formulated, because of the absent of any mousterian attributs. The taxonomic position of lower cultural layers of Markina gora is appreciated by means of limitation the system of connections and relations inside of which it may be incorporated as part of this system. The most important for this aim appears to be the identification in distinct parts of the continent, in the chronological framework 36-45 kyr, a number of sites of Upper Palaeolithic affiliation, but outside of traditional (aurignatian-castelperronean-szeletian-streletskaia) EUP attribution. According to authors of research, at least of part of them, the most significant feature for distinguishing the taxonomic position of these assemblages is both its isolation from local Middle Palaeolitic antecedents, from the eventual transition industries, and also from local successors. This feature seems to be the most important for complex diagnostic, although it is an indicator of logical, but not of empirical nature. Nevertheless, some technological attribute, common for this association appears to be possible to distinguish. In spite of a very variable structure of assemblages, one diagnostic attribute of complex associations (compositions) seems to be common: it the blade-levallois or/and quasi-levallois both bipolar and unipolar method, and pointed blade with non-parallel, convergent sides (or divergent as an bi-product of the same method), as its result  and as a principal blank for tools manufacture. Having been distinguished as diagnostic feature for Bohunican and Boker-Tachtit industries, it can be used as a technological indicator for theirs association with a set of industries of waste area of northern hemisphere, distinguished under the titles of Initial Upper Palaeolithic for East Mediterranean (Nazlet Hater 4, Ucagizli, Canal, Umm el Tlell) and Kara-Bom stratum / layer, bed/ for North-Central Asia. It is worth to mention in this connection that the most ancient for the moment human remains of modern type were distinguished in association with assemblage with well-represented levallois component (Skhul, Tabun and particularly, Taramasa 1). According to stratigraphic and radiocarbon evidences, the sites, associated with this stratum-entity, have a more ancient chronological position that Aurignacian technocomplex, the basic component of the binary organized system, traditionally distinguished as Early Upper Palaeolithic epoch or the the stage of general periodization. The distinguishing of the stage of Intermediate Upper Palaeolithic as a unity of general periodization have two principal logical reasons and two empirical backgrounds. It has to be defined for the following reasons: 1) as an opposition of complex but dis-local structural organization of Middle Palaeolithic World from one side, and from the other side as an opposition of successive stade of traditional binary organized Early Upper Palaeolithic; 2) as a taxonomic entity of special structural kind which represent the association of: a) classic mousterian varieteis, in local pespectives manifested evolutional sequences to Upper Palaeolithic (MTA-Chatelperronan, mousterian leaf-point industries –Szeletian, vague line to Streletskaia), b) assemblages with Upper Palaeolithic tol-kit based on levallois and quasi-levallois method, that have a cross-continental distribution, but are represented by great number of small particular unities, such as Bohunician, Boker-Tachtit – Ucagizli –Kanal, Kara-Bom- , Makarovo. Some of them have a very promoted appearance, at least in some components. The best examples of last are Костенки 17 (II) and Kostenki 14 (IVb), decorations of one and bone industry of other have a most close analogies in developed more recent palaeolithic cultures. The most complicated problem are the position of Bachokirian and Kostenki 12 (II) assemblages , and sites of Shlyakh-Belokuzminovka tradition. The first may be explained as an initial manifestations of Aurignacoide technocomlex, or as arising of the new line of development. The attribution of the second depend from its relation to so-called East-Micoquian from the one side and to Zagros mousterian from the other. Upper chronological limit of Intermediate Upper Palaeolithis is defined at the level of 35-37 kyr, with possible local fluctuation in both directions. The problem of  the lower limit seems to have being remained open, although there are some reasons to incorporate in this system assemblages of  seclinian entity of the age of 100 kyr about. The term Intermediate Upper Palaeolithis appears to be more covenant for designation the content of cultural processes of the period under discussion. Spread term of Initial Upper Palaelithic seems to be in opposition to main feature of this complex that do not has an evolutional connection in traditions of successive period. Also it is not a transitional cultural entity for the same reason. Lower cultural layers of Markina gora, at first IVb cultural horizon, which obtained sufficiently enough for diagnostic stone and bone assemblage, may be estimated as a one of manifestations of cultural evolution inside of the relations system of Intermediate Upper Palaeolithic as a particular epoch of archaeological periodization. 

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