Early Upper Paleolithic of the East European Plain



The East European Plain  is a vast interior plain extending east of the North/Central European Plain, and comprising several plateaus stretching roughly from 25 degrees longitude eastward. It includes the westernmost Volhynian-Podolian Upland, than the Central Russian Upland, and on the eastern border, encompassing the Volga Upland. The plain includes also a series of major river basins such as the Dnepr Basin, the Oka-Don Lowland, and the Volga Basin. Along the southernmost point of the East European Plain are the Caucasus and Crimean mountain ranges.Together with the North European Plain covering much of north-eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it constitutes the European Plain, the mountain-free part of the European landscape

This is a carinated burin, an end scraper, both with lateral retouches, suggestive for hafting, and a biconvex Leafpoint from the Early  Upper Paleolithic of the East European Plain. The leaf point is 8 cm long.

In Western Europe, the early Upper Paleolithic (EUP) is characterized by the (Proto) Aurignacian and several  local entities like the Chatelperronian in S/W-France, the Uluzzian in Italy and Greek, the Lincombian-Ranisian-Jerzmanowician in N/W- Europe and the Bohunician in the Brno Basin with several isolated scatters  further East like Kulichivka (western Ukraine).  The Szeletian seems to have been developed from the Middle European Micoquian and remains the only “transitional” industry.

While the structure of the EUP in Western and Middle Europe became considerable clear during the last 20 years, the integration of the east European EUP into the wider European context remains challenging. The most important reason is related to the scarcity of natural shelters on the East European Plain resulting in a low visibility of burried sites.

On the East European plain it seems that bifacial elements (Streletskian, “Eastern Szeletian”) define one important component of the EUP. Recently some key sequences were recently re-dated and other remain to be reevaluated in depth. The primary data of most of these industries remain debatable, especially their taphonomy and exact dating.

At Kostenki 1/V the lower chronological limit of the Streletskian is about 42 k.a. old (44-47 k.a. cal. BP). The Streletskian or eastern Szeletian at Buran Kaya III/C on the Crimean Peninsula has a similar age. If we accept, that the  new direct AMS C-14 dates on Sungir human burials are representative for the Streletskian at this site (33,3- 36,3 k.a. cal BP), this would indicate a considerable time depth of this techno complex . In addition, the Streletskian has a very wide spatial distribution from the Middle Urals (Garchi 1) to the Pontic steppe (Biriychaia balka 2, Vys), without relations to any environmental conditions.

In contrast to the upper Paleolithic bifacial tradition, the Aurignacian of the East European plain is rather rare: presently the Kostenki group of sites provides evidence both for the northeast and most ancient manifestation of the Aurignacian /~35,0 k.a .(cal: 39,3-40,9) k.a. BP.

Excavations of the last decade of the lowermost cultural layer (IVb) at Kostenki 14, under the CI tephra (~39.6 k.a.), also provided evidence for an assemblage without typical Aurignacian and Streletskian elements.

This Initial Upper Paleolithic (IUP)  appears to be comparable to the Proto-Aurignacian of the western Mediterranean, the Fumanian of North Italy, and the Middle East early Ahmarian.

Such IUP ensembles may  represent a “pioneering” Upper Paleolithic wave that was realized both as migrations and/or as cultural transmission.

Up to now, Siuren 1 is the only known Aurignacian site in Crimea. It has nine different Aurignacian occupational layers in primary positions, which are attributed to the early/Protoaurignacian (units H and G; Dufour bladelets subtype Dufour; Krems-Points, St. Yves  Points, ) and the late Aurignacian (unit F; Bladelets of subtype Roc-de-Combe ) due to techno-typological reasons. Within all Aurignacian horizons, the assemblages are characterized by bladelets and microblades, which constitute the majority of tool supports as well.

In general Siuren 1 looks like a replication of the West and Middle European evolution: a Protoaurignacian is followed by an evolved Aurignacian, but according to the C-14 data the site is only 30 k.a. old.

As it is improbable that the East Europe lagged behind the general lithic trend for ten thousand years after the (Proto)-Aurignacian started in West and Middle Europe, it is reasonable to reject all C-14 data from this site.

Denominating Lamelles during the Proto / Aurignacian in S/W-France and Eurasia

A Ksar Akil Point from Kebara

Emireh points and the Levantine Initial Upper Paleolithic

The Initial Upper Paleolithic of the Negev

About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome! About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University. Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.
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2 Responses to Early Upper Paleolithic of the East European Plain

  1. Fulvio says:

    Dear Katzman, good morning.

    I have a doubt about the IUP definition and I hope you can help me.

    I read that IUP refers only Bachokirian/Bohunician ( while in Europe , at the same time, more or less, we have the Transitional industries) but I see also that for other scholars the IUP refers to the transitional industries AND the Bachokirian/Bohunician.

    So I find two definition of IUP.

    I would say that the “transitional + Bachokirian/Bohunician” can be lumped together in”IUP” ? IUP is time range? Or IUP refers only at Bachokirian/Bohunician ?

    Thank you.

    Best Regards.


  2. Katzman says:

    Hi Fulvio:
    IUP and EUP are large containers with different meaning for different people. In this post I used the IUP category for the “First UP” in a region and the EUP for the succeeding industries. I must confess that these labels are totally subjective and would have need more explanation …

    For a more scientific discussion see also: https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/rethinking-the-initial-upper-paleolithic

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