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The Stone Age. Part 2. Mesolithic (13-8 thousand years ago)

General characteristics of the Mesolithic

The Stone Age epoch between the Paleolithic and Neolithic is sometimes called the Epipaleolithic, Middle Stone Age, Holocene Paleolithic, but most often — Mesolithic. Archaeological cultures and monuments of the Mesolithic belong to the three climatic phases of the postglacial period by most researchers:

  • preboreal — from 8.3 to 7.5/7 thousand years BC,
  • boreal-7.5/7-6 thousand years BC and the
  • beginning of the Atlantic period (Atlanticum) — 6-5. 5 thousand years BC.

Almost all researchers correlate the Mesolithic with the period from the XX to the VI, and in some areas up to the V millennium BC.
The history of the Mesolithic period is not simple. Scientists up to the beginning of the XX century. believed that in Europe between the Paleolithic and Neolithic epochs for a long time there were significant areas of uninhabited territories. Only in the last quarter of the 19th century were monuments discovered, the cultural layers of which overlapped the Paleolithic, but were different from them in character and contained inventory. This led archaeologists to identify the Azile and Tardenoise cultures (the Mas de Azille and Tardenoise caves in France), which after a while took their place in the general periodization of the Stone Age, for example, in the periodization of Mortillet. The Azile and Tardenoise epochs were distinguished for the territory of Europe as the most recent stages of the ancient Stone Age, but the discussion about their distinctive features continued.

In 1928, the Ukrainian scientist M. Ya. Rudinsky introduced the term “Mesolithic” for the first time in Russian literature and suggested the existence of a special Mesolithic period of the Stone Age. In the 30s, the famous English archaeologist D. G. D. Clark justified the allocation of the Mesolithic as a separate large period. A major Russian archaeologist, M. V. Voevodsky, was the first to identify and describe the diverse world of Mesolithic cultures in Eastern Europe. Further research by Russian archaeologists expanded and deepened the proposed provisions.

Natural conditions and human settlement

The prerequisites for the transition from the Paleolithic to the Mesolithic were determined by global climate changes. Approximately 13 thousand years ago (11 thousand years BC), global post-glacial warming begins. The Pleistocene epoch is replaced by the Holocene epoch. The territory of Europe was gradually freed from the ice sheets, the huge masses of water formed during the melting of the glacier, changed the shape and character of the ancient relief. The water level in the World’s oceans, and especially in the Caspian, Black and Baltic Seas, rose significantly, and by the IX-VIII thousand BC. it reached the highest level in the history of these reservoirs. Gradually formed close to the modern outlines of the seas and riverbeds. This process, which began at the turn of the Pleistocene and Holocene, was very long and ended not earlier than the V millennium BC, in the Neolithic era.

In the post-glacial period, there were serious changes in the entire natural complex. New natural zones were formed in the areas previously occupied by the ice sheet: the northernmost areas were occupied by tundra, a little to the south — large areas were covered with coniferous forests, and even to the south — broad-leaved forests. In the preboreal (7.5-7 thousand years BC), the warming was so stable that there was a reduction in the tundra and the northward movement of birch, pine and spruce forests, which almost everywhere reached the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

The cold steppe expanses in the south of the Russian plain are changing their vegetation cover to a more lush and thermophilic one, the areas later known as deserts were watered and covered with rich vegetation.

The change in vegetation directly affected the development of the animal world. Even at the end of the Paleolithic, the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and musk ox began to die out. Such cold-loving animals as the reindeer and arctic fox retreated far to the north and multiplied widely in the tundra and taiga zones. The last representatives of the mammoth fauna lived out their lives in the circumpolar latitudes of Siberia. The findings of mammoth bones from the Berelekhsky locality near the Indigirka River and on the Novosibirsk Islands show a decrease in the size of the animals, which is usually a sign of population extinction. The warming of the climate, which drove the mammoths to the north, and on the other hand, the rising level of the sulfur seas, which pushed the mammoths to the south, sharply reduced the area suitable for their life. By the beginning of the VI millennium BC, one of the last mammoth populations was preserved only on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea, where, according to the latest information, they existed until the IV millennium BC.

The place of extinct representatives of the Pleistocene fauna was taken by modern animal species: in the forests — red deer, elk, brown bear, wolf, wild boar, beaver; in the steppe zone — saiga, wild donkey, horse, hur. There has been a significant increase in the number of birds, especially waterfowl, fish, sea animals, and coastal edible shellfish.

In the Late Glacial period, human settlement of the forest zone of the European part of Russia took place. People followed the representatives of the cold-loving fauna to the north in the territories that were being freed from the ice cover. Within a relatively short period of time, people reached the shores of the then forming Baltic Sea, the upper reaches of the Dnieper and the Volga. During this epoch, the Arctic coast of the Kola Peninsula, the Arctic Region, and the Far East were settled by humans.

Economy and life of the Mesolithic era

Changing natural areas and landscapes

Changes in the natural environment led to a change in the lifestyle of the Mesolithic population. Within just a few millennia, the primitive inhabitants of the territory of almost all of Europe, who for a long time lived in relatively cold conditions, turned into inhabitants of temperate or warm climatic zones, with a different plant and animal world. The same can be said about the rest of the regions, since at this time people have mastered all natural zones without exception.

Due to the appearance of sharp natural differences between individual geographical areas and climatic zones, it is in the Mesolithic that specific features of human development of a particular region are formed, which can be traced throughout subsequent history. Thus, in the southern zone — the zone of forest — steppes and vegetation-rich steppes-from the very beginning, intensive gathering prevails, which quickly leads to the transition to productive forms of economy. In the regions of North Africa, in the Far East and in the north of the Iranian Highlands — on the territory of the so — called “fertile crescent lands” – the Mesolithic period was very short and the transition to the Neolithic took place quickly, within 2-3 thousand years. The Front East became for a long time a” generator ” of new ideas and a region from which the migrated population brought new cultural traditions to neighboring territories. On the contrary, the forest zone remains the traditional world of hunter—gatherer fishermen for a very long time.

The spread of forest and steppe animal species, the appearance of a large number of waterfowl, fish and shellfish, the widespread distribution of more thermophilic vegetation – all this provided many new food resources to Mesolithic hunters, fishermen, gatherers and, accordingly, required the development of new forms of cultural and economic adaptation.

Changing hunting tactics

With the disappearance of large herd animals and open landscapes, corral hunting loses its importance. Smaller and more mobile species of animals that live in the forest zone, force people to change the traditional way of hunting for the Paleolithic. Small groups of hunters armed with bows and arrows, which appeared at the end of the Paleolithic era, now go out to fish. Probably, the first domesticated animal — a dog-was also used for hunting. Her bones were found at Mesolithic sites in the Crimea and Siberia, in the Far East.

The hunt could only be successful with the use of throwing weapons. In the Paleolithic, these were spears and javelins, which was very convenient in open steppe and tundra landscapes. In the Mesolithic, a more effective weapon — the bow and arrow-is ubiquitous. It allowed hunting both large and smaller solitary animals and birds. The proliferation of these weapons is evidenced by numerous finds of arrowheads, various in shape and made of various materials. The bows found in the Mesolithic burials of Siberia were about 1 m long, they give the impression of a powerful weapon. The fact that bows were revered by their ancient masters is indicated by the fact that they were decorated with drilled animal fangs.

Increasing the role of fisheries

Since there are a lot of water spaces in the surrounding nature, and herd ungulates are much less, the role of fishing in the Mesolithic dramatically increases. This is confirmed by the findings of numerous tools for fishing: hooks, harpoons, spears. At this time, a curved fish hook appears (a straight one existed in the Paleolithic). At the same time, spearheads were widely distributed, which were flat bone products with small teeth on one side, thin, well-pointed. Such products are known in the parking lot of Kunda and many others. Spears were made not only from bone — wood and stone were used, but also composite spears, where the teeth were made of aluminum.

The most important development in fishing was the use of nets. Neither the harpoon nor the fishing rod could provide enough prey. In the Baltic Mesolithic sites, the remains of fishing nets with floats made of pine and birch bark and stone sinkers are often found. In the peat bogs of Scandinavia, there are known finds of fragments of fishing nets with a length of more than 25 m, which, as a rule, were woven from plant fibers. In addition, various traps such as vershas and fences were used, the remains of which are also found in the peat strata of the Mesolithic period.

Changing lifestyle in the Mesolithic

Mesolithic bone and wood tools

Mesolithic bone and wood products. Bone products: 1-dagger; 3-6-arrows; 11, 12-harpoons; 13-plough Wooden products: 2-bow; 7-harpoon; 8, 10-arrowheads; 9-axe with a coupling made of pine root.

The development of water spaces caused the appearance of boats. These were dugout boats made of a single trunk, as well as frame boats of the canoe type (their frame was made of wood and covered with skins, leather, birch bark). In winter, other means of transportation were needed — sledges and skis. Judging by the findings in the peat bogs, the sledges resembled modern ones, and the skis were very diverse: among them were common, as well as wide or round snowshoe skis (representing a rim with a net inside), known to all hunters of the forest zone to this day. It is clear that the production of all these items required the use of a variety of tools for woodworking.

New ways of extracting the resources necessary for life caused a new way of life — for the Mesolithic period, as a rule, small parking areas with a thin cultural layer and traces of relatively short-term residential structures such as huts are characteristic. This reflects the emergence of small groups of hunters and fishermen who lived quite mobile. Many such sites with similar inventory are found in certain areas, which allows you to distinguish individual archaeological cultures.

As for housing construction, a significant warming of the climate has also affected this area of human activity. At various Mesolithic sites, traces of rather large and sometimes deepened wooden structures or temporary structures such as huts have been found. In the southern regions, people used caves, canopies, grottos, and built light ground dwellings.

Tools and equipment for their production

Stone processing largely continued the traditions of the Paleolithic. First of all, the prismatic splitting technique is being developed. The production and use of thin micro-plates of correct outlines reaches its peak in the Mesolithic. The restructuring of the nature of hunting, caused by changes in the environment, required the improvement of all types of throwing weapons, in particular the bow and arrow. Arrowheads, javelins, knives, and other weapons were equipped with blades consisting of insert plates obtained by splitting a carefully prepared prismatic nucleus. The blanks for such inserts and arrowheads were regular plates, plates, most often long and narrow, and flakes. The shape of the blanks and their secondary processing, which determine the finished product, are determined by the cultural traditions that existed in a particular region.

Mesolithic stone tools

Mesolithic stone products: 1,2 — nuclei (prismatic, pencil — shaped); 3, 4 — scrapers; 5, 6 — incisors; 7 — point; 8, 9 — punchers (drill, puncture); 10-15— non — geometric microliths (plates with a retouched end, with a blunted edge, points); 16-25 — geometric microliths (segments, quadrilaterals, triangles, trapezoids); 26, 27-chopping tools (axes); 28-33-arrowheads.

The main set of Mesolithic tools is the same as in the Late Paleolithic. However, the natural uniqueness of different areas determines the appearance and mass distribution of specific groups of products in each of them.

In the southern regions, numerous flint products of geometric shape are widely distributed, representing small segments, triangles, trapezoids, which were made from small regular plates using retouching — they are usually called geometric microlites. They are well known since the Upper Paleolithic, but they are most widely distributed in the Mesolithic as a result of further development of the prismatic splitting technique. They served as arrowheads and inserts in composite tools needed for intensive gathering, hunting and fishing. Tools equipped with this kind of insert blades (harpoons, spearheads and javelins, reaping knives) could have a working edge not only straight, but also any other necessary shape, including with spikes and teeth.

One of the characteristic features of the Mesolithic era was the widespread use of tools for processing wood. In the forest and forest — steppe zones, the production of chopping and cutting tools-chisels and axes, adzes, plows-is developing. Woodworking reaches a large volume: a person built houses, he needed boats and skis, sledges and various hunting traps, wooden dishes and many other wooden objects.

In addition, digging tools — hoes and kaila-are quite common. All these tools are usually massive, they are often called macrolites, and their working blades take on shapes that can later be observed in metal products.

In the manufacture of these tools, in addition to retouching, the following was used:

  • drilling,
  • sawing,
  • grinding and
  • polishing.

The last two methods of tool processing were already very widespread in the Neolithic.

Thanks to grinding, it became possible to process the material of any structure and hardness, as well as to give it the desired shape. This was especially important for the manu

Spiritual life in the Mesolithic

Certain ideas about the spiritual world of man of the Mesolithic era give us a variety and quite numerous monuments of art and funerary practice.


Mesolithic fine art is represented in the same three main forms as in the Upper Paleolithic — these are

  • rock art, i.e. monumental art,
  • small plastic art, and
  • applied art.
Tassilin-Adger Rock Carvings

Rock paintings of Tassilin-Adger. North Africa.

Nevertheless, in the visual art of the Mesolithic there are qualitative changes compared to the previous era. The bright “Paleolithic realism” is replaced by a much more schematic graphic style. The image of a person or animal is increasingly becoming a sign or symbol, in addition, the ornament that adorns various decorative and household items is widely distributed and complicated.

Rock carvings are organized into large groups, their subjects are mainly devoted to the themes of hunting, sometimes-military clashes. Each such composition is a whole story about an event, emotionally colored, dynamic. The main innovation is the appearance of numerous images of people, so rare in the Paleolithic: the most common figures of hunters armed with bows and spears.

The most widely represented rock carvings are in Spain and North Africa. Not all of them can be attributed only to the Mesolithic, since this tradition developed and persisted in these territories, probably until the Eneolithic era. As a rule, the images are not located in caves, but on rock ledges and in shallow niches. More than 40 such localities are known on the southern and eastern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula. Numerous images are made in black and red mineral paints. In North Africa, in the modern Sahara desert, there are remarkable frescoes in the area of Tassili, which have a certain similarity to the Spanish ones.

In Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Northern Black Sea region, there are also known finds of rock carvings, the earliest of which can be attributed to the Mesolithic. The most famous is the Kobystan tract in Azerbaijan, on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, where numerous petroglyphs made in the technique of contour and silhouette engraving are discovered. Images dating back to the Mesolithic era include stylized figures of men and bulls.

In the Zaraut-Kamar grotto in Central Ferghana, three compositions were found, made with red paint on a lime deposit, which depicted the hunting of bulls, gazelles and screw-horned goats. In the grotto of the Mine, seven drawings were discovered, including figures of hunters and a boar, bear or yak, struck by arrows.

The ceiling of the Stone grave with the image of horses and goats

The ceiling of the Stone grave with the image of horses and goats

A very interesting monument of ancient art — the hill of the Stone Grave-is located on the right bank of the Molochnaya River, near the city of Melitopol, in the Azov region. Between the stones and the limestone slabs covering the hill, caves and passages filled with sand were revealed, in which numerous groups of drawings and reliefs were located. In one of the caves, images of goats and horses were found carved on the ceiling. Researchers dated the images to the Epipaleolite (9-7 thousand years BC). Currently, the Mesolithic age of the images of the Stone Grave is disputed, they are dated to the second half of the III thousand BC. However, in favor of the Mesolithic dating of the early layer of images, the presence of a parking lot next to the hill, the material of the lower layer of which is characteristic of this era.

Fine art is characterized by the same stylistic features as monumental art.:

  • simplification,
  • schematism, and
  • signedness.

At the sites of the Mesolithic, mainly in the forest zone, there are quite numerous, but extremely simplified anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images. In addition, there are items that can not be accurately attributed — they are called pendants, plaques, images of fantastic creatures, etc. The materials for making these figures were wood, bone, horn, fish tooth, and amber.

Fine plastics include painted and engraved pebbles, which are well known in Western European cave sites. The drawings on the pebbles most often have an ornamental character — these are oval spots, crosses, transverse stripes, zigzags, lattices, stars, sometimes stylized anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures. These pebbles could be used for magical purposes and in this sense are analogous to the Australian churing-receptacles of the human soul.

Applied art is widely represented by ornamented objects of hunting weapons and everyday life. The main elements and motifs of the ornament were lines, strokes, zigzags, grid, etc. Ornaments covered the handles of stone tools, which were made of bone, horn and wood, as well as the tools themselves, made of the same materials. At the Prionezhskaya site of Veretie 1, there is a rich collection of decorated objects; similar items have been found at other sites, and in Mesolithic burials.


The funerary rites of the Mesolithic period are in many respects similar to those of the Late Paleolithic period. There are still individual burials of people performed in or near parking lots.

In the Baikal region, there are famous monuments Ust-Gryaznaya, Chastye Pad, Khinskaya Pad, Rytvinka 1. Bows decorated with pendants made of drilled animal teeth were placed in the paired burial from the Khin Pad. At the Priangarsky site of Rytvinka 1, a paired burial of a woman and an infant was investigated, which was performed in a dirt pit lined with stone tiles. The skeleton of the woman was slightly crouched and lay on its side, hugging the skeleton of the child, both skeletons were painted with ochre. The skull of the woman was separated from the skeleton and placed in a separate recess, in the corner of the grave pit, which resembles similar rites in Mesolithic burials in Western Europe (see below). The funeral inventory was represented by a flint plate with retouching, inserts. In addition, two arrowheads were found in the area of the woman’s sacral vertebrae and the child’s chest, which allows researchers to assume that their deaths were violent.

Reconstructions of people from the Murzak-Koba grotto (Crimea)

Reconstruction of M. M. Gerasimov based on skulls found in the Murzak-Koba grotto (Crimea).

In the Crimea, the paired burial of a man and a woman at the Murzak-Koba cave site was investigated. Both bones are elongated and densely covered with ochre. The woman had the last phalanges on her little fingers amputated during her lifetime. Such rites are known from ethnographic data and are reflected in the cave paintings of the Paleolithic. In the Fatma-Koba cave, the burial of a man was made in a dirt pit, thickly covered with ochre, the buried man lay on his side with his legs strongly bent, and his hands were located behind his head. Such a pose is achieved, as a rule, by a special binding of the deceased, which characterizes the presence of certain ideas about the rules of transition to the afterlife and the rituals that accompanied it.

New in the Mesolithic burial practice is the appearance of burial grounds — the oldest ancestral cemeteries located outside the settlements. Their appearance probably reflects the strengthening of intra-tribal ties and the development of the ancestral cult associated with this process.

The most striking complexes of this kind are discovered in Western Europe — in Portugal and Normandy. These are the Grosse Ofnet grotto, the burial grounds on the islands of Tevjek and Gedik. In the Ofnet grotto, belonging to the Azil culture, the

The most famous Mesolithic monument in the forest zone of Eastern Europe is the Oleneostrovsky burial Ground, which is located on the Southern Deer Island of Lake Onega. This is a huge necropolis dating from the end of the VI-beginning of the V thousand BC. e. The burial materials abound with beautiful bone products, including small plastic, various utensils and hunting weapons. Among the stone products, the most widely represented are arrowheads, knives and knife-shaped plates made of flint, axes and adzes made of slate. The closest analogs are represented at the Prionezhsky sites of Veretye 1 and Kubenino, on the monuments of the Mesolithic of Lithuania. The findings in the burials of numerous zoomorphic plastics suggest the existence of a cult of animals, among which the bear and elk were especially revered.

Mesolithic archaeological cultures

Mesolithic archaeological cultures are distinguished everywhere, their distribution and interrelationships make it possible to judge the ways of settlement of Mesolithic tribes and the degree of development of a particular region.

Many of them were formed on the basis of Late Paleolithic cultures that previously existed in these territories, to a greater extent this applies to the regions of Southern, Western and partly Central Europe, where the Late Glacial period was characterized by relatively mild natural conditions. Thus, the development of the Mesolithic Azile and Tardenoise cultures (Pyrenees, France) was a consistent continuation of the traditions of the Late Paleolithic against the background of general climatic changes.

However, for those areas where natural conditions changed quite dramatically — and such areas were most of Eastern Europe, part of Central Asia and Kakhzakhstan, Siberia and the Far East — the influence of the cultures of Southern, Central and Western Europe from the west and the cultures of the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia from the south was decisive.

The first farmers

Modern view of Jericho Hill

Modern view of Jericho Hill

In the Middle East, already in the IX-VIII thousand BC, there was a transition to productive forms of economy. It is this region, being the cradle of the producing economy, that has become a source of new cultural and economic influences for most of the neighboring territories. One of the most famous near-Eastern cultures, an example of which well shows the specifics and pace of development of the region, is the Natufian, named after the Wadi en-Natuf monument in Palestine. Early stages of this culture (11-10 thousand years). years BC) are characterized by the fact that in the economic structure of the leading industries were hunting and intensive gathering. However, already in the IX-VIII thousand BC, many Natufian communities switched to a sedentary lifestyle. So, in the settlement of Einan, there are about 50 round mud houses, there are grain pits, in the coating of which, as well as in the coating of houses, grains and straw of domesticated wheat and barley are found. At the settlement on Mount Carmel (Israel), several Natufian burials were investigated. The ancient camp at the base of the tell in Jericho (Israel) belongs to the early stage of the Natufian culture, but already in the VII thousand BC their descendants built a large village surrounded by high walls with towers. All internal buildings and defensive fortifications are built of mud brick and stone. Jericho is one of the oldest permanent settlements in the world.

Migrants from the Middle East could move north and east in three ways-through the Balkans, the Caucasus, and through the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. All these paths are clearly reflected in the kaleidoscope of archaeological material from the Mesolithic — Early Neolithic period. The influence of the Far Eastern cultures can be clearly traced in the forms of stone tools, especially in the forms of geometric microliths.

Northwestern Europe was another major region, from which more and more groups of people went to the land that was being freed from the glacier, following the commercial animals. Various migration processes are reflected in the differences in the stone industries of the archaeological cultures of the forest zone of Eastern Europe. In the technologies of processing stone raw materials, a set of characteristic types of products and hunting equipment, one can trace a greater or lesser influence of certain cultural traditions of Western and Northern Europe.

Characteristics Archaeological cultures of Northern Eurasia

The southern zone is represented by the cultures of the Northern Black Sea region, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the Caspian Sea and partly the Urals, which were largely formed under the influence of the Far Eastern cultural impulses. Here, the transition from appropriating to producing economic activity, mainly related to the original cattle breeding, took place relatively early.

Central Asia, the Caspian Sea, the Urals and the Urals

In Central Asia, Mesolithic monuments are known in the Ferghana Valley, in the high-mountain Pamirs, in the Caspian region.

In the Southern and Eastern Caspian Region, numerous Mesolithic monuments are often confined to the shores of ancient reservoirs and riverbeds. The main occupation of the ancient population was hunting and catching sturgeon fish, as well as collecting plants and shellfish. In the south of the Caspian Sea, multi-layered cave-type sites have been discovered. In the Mesolithic layers of the Jebel grotto (8-7 thousand years BC), the bones of domesticated animals — goats and sheep-were first discovered, which makes this area one of the oldest centers of the producing economy.

The sites of the Eastern Caspian Region (the 4th layer of the Dam-Dam-Cheshme-1 grotto, the Mesolithic layers of the Kaylu cave, etc.) were called the Zarzian-type Caspian sites, or the East Caspian culture.

The inventory of this culture has many analogies with the archaeological materials found both to the south — for example, in Iraq (Zarzi site), and to the north – in the Southern Urals, in the Urals and Trans-Urals. This phenomenon reflects the migration paths of the ancient population.

In the Southern Urals, the sites of the Yangel culture were studied, which dates from the IX to the second half of the VII millennium BC. Its origin is associated with the Mesolithic of the south-eastern Caspian region, the Near and Middle East, which reflects the direction of migration of the Mesolithic population from the south to the north, from the areas of the origin of the producing economy. The general appearance of the flint industry is microlitic. A characteristic feature is the use of jasper and palm-shaped flint as raw materials. Since the Mesolithic of Western Siberia has not been sufficiently studied, it is not possible to trace the further movements of these tribes to the east.

The development of culture in the western Urals followed somewhat different paths, where another branch of the migration flow moving from the south, from the eastern Caspian region, fell. The oldest Mesolithic monuments in this area have not yet been found, and the known ones date from the Middle and late Mesolithic-VII-V thousand BC.

The most well-known monuments of the Volga and Kama rivers, which are united in the Kama, or Kama culture (VII-VI thousand BC). The inventory of the eastern group of sites is characterized by plate blanks and a large number of microliths, which clearly indicates southern influences. On the contrary, in the inventory of the Western group, the number of tools on flakes increases, the plates become larger, chopping tools, symmetrical trapezoids and petiolate arrowheads are presented. App

Mesolithic of the Caucasus

The Mesolithic of the Caucasus (VIII-VII thousand BC) is characterized by complexes of lamellar microlitic industries, close analogues of which are known in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the south-west of the Iranian highlands, which suggests the existence of a single cultural community here. In addition to contacts with the southern regions, there were constant contacts with the population of the steppe Northern Black Sea region.

Mesolithic cultures of the Caucasus (Imereti, Trialeti Mesolithic and Chokh) differ in the types of microliths, the specifics of the manufacture of hunting weapons and the use of horn and bone. In the Trialetek Mesolithic culture, a feature of the production of stone products is the use of obsidian-volcanic glass (the site of Zurtaketi). However, the local differences of these cultures are less striking than their common features.

The camps were located both in high mountain gorges, and on hills, and in river valleys. The population hunted brown and cave bears, red deer, tura, mouflon, and also engaged in fishing.


The sites of the Gornokrymsk culture are concentrated in the south-west of the Crimean Peninsula, almost all of them are cave-like and multi-layered, but in the foothills and steppe areas there are a number of short-term open sites dating back to the Late Mesolithic period.

According to the researchers, the Gornokrym culture was monolithic, the inventory of simultaneous sites is similar in all details, and there is an indubitable continuity between the sites of different times. Flint tools in the early stages retain a number of Upper Paleolithic features, but by the middle of the Mesolithic they disappear, the number of microlithic tools increases sharply, among which trapezoids and inserts predominate.

In the Crimea and the Northern Black Sea region in the Mesolithic era, the Kukrek culture was widespread (the Kukrek monuments near Simferopol, the Stone Grave in the Azov region, Igen-8 in the Dnieper region). In the inventory of this culture, geometric microliths are isolated, but their place is occupied by a kind of Kukrek-type inserts, which are very widespread and represented a trapezoidal plate, treated with a kind of flat retouching.

Northern Black Sea Region

One of the interesting cultures of the Northern Black Sea region of the Late Mesolithic period is Grebenikovskaya, whose monuments are spread on the left bank of the Dnieper and at the mouth of the Dniester; the most famous are the sites of Girzhevo and Mirnoye. The inventory of this culture indicates the presence of stable links with the Late Paleolithic and Early Mesolithic traditions of the Lower Dnieper region. In the inventory, in addition to tools on knife-shaped plates, trapezoids, incisors, there are a lot of scrapers, which indicates the prevailing importance of hunting in the occupations of the population. According to the researchers, the hunting practice of the Grebenik tribes was extremely successful, which was due to the development of the prismatic splitting technique, which allows the production of hunting weapons, mainly arrowheads. Probably, this circumstance led to a violation of the ecological balance, which caused, in turn, a crisis of hunting and increased the role of gathering. Intensive gathering has led to a relatively rapid transition to productive forms of economy in these territories.

Eastern Europe

The forest zone of Northern Eurasia in the Mesolithic was developed by groups of hunter-gatherers who reached remote areas of the north. On the outskirts of the Oikumene, and especially in Siberia, large areas were still uninhabited.

As mentioned above, in the formation of many Mesolithic cultures of Eastern Europe, a decisive role was played by the Late Paleolithic Svider culture, which probably arose on the territory of Poland and spread in the form of a migration flow of its carriers or through cultural influence to the Urals and the Crimea. In addition, the Mesolithic of Eastern Europe was greatly influenced by the Arensburg culture, which was widespread in the final Upper Paleolithic in Northern Germany.

One of the most striking cultures of the Upper Dnieper region is the Grenskaya culture, represented by sites also in Eastern Belarus. The origin of this culture is associated with the appearance of the Arensburg population here. At the second stage of its existence, there is a close connection with the Pesochnor culture on the Desna and the Yenev culture in the Volga-Oka interfluve, which may indicate the further advance of the bearers of the Arensburg traditions to the east.

To the north-west, in the basin of the Neman and the Western Dvina, in the west of Belarus, in Lithuania and in the north-east of Poland, sites of the Neman culture were found. The inventory of this culture is characterized by the presence of both Svidersky and Ahrensburg traditions.

During excavations on the territory of Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and Russia, monuments of the Kunda culture (named after the Kunda site in Estonia) were discovered, which developed for a very long time — from the preboreal to the beginning of the Atlantic. The inventory is characterized by tools on large plates, petiolate arrowheads and numerous tools made of bone and horn — adzes, scrapers, points, awls, fish hooks, arrowheads with a biconic head, hoes, harpoons, tools for knitting nets. In the formation of this culture, the influence of the Late Hungarian tribes can be traced. Developed fishing, which was carried out by the carriers of the Kunda culture, created the prerequisites for the transition to sedentary life. As a result of its development, the Mesolithic culture of Kunda, while retaining its main features, became the basis for the formation of the ryala of the Neolithic cultures of the Karelian Isthmus and the north-eastern regions of the forest zone.

The entire Mesolithic of the Ukrainian Polesie (Upper Dnieper) is closely related to the Mesolithic of the Southern Baltic, the Polish and Polesie lowlands, and the Volga-Oka interfluve.

A number of expressive Mesolithic cultures, such as the Yanislavitskaya, have been explored in this vast region. Kudlaevskaya, Pesochnorovskaya, whose inventory reflects to a greater or lesser extent the influence of Western European neighbors-heirs of Arensburg, Svidersk and more southern traditions.

The Early Mesolithic in the Volga-Oka interfluve is represented by the Ressetian culture, which is characterized by a certain continuity with the traditions of the previous Late Paleolithic cultures, but at the same time the later Western influences are quite strong. The Ressetian culture may have influenced the emergence of the later Butovo culture.

The Butovo culture occupied a vast area in the Volga-Oka interfluve. It dates from the middle of the VIII to VI thousand BC. In the stone inventory, the tips of the willow-leaved and petiolate forms are widely represented. Some scholars associate the origin of the Butovo culture with the influence of the Svidersko-Arensburg traditions, while others believe that this culture was formed on the basis of the Ressetian culture with the participation of the Sviderski tradition carriers.

In the western part of the Volga-Oka interfluve, the Yenev culture was widespread. Among the tools are scrapers of various types, there are axes with an intercept, among the microliths — trapezoids made of plates and flakes, triangles, segments, rhombuses. According to scientists, the Yenev and Pesochnor cultures were formed with the participation of carriers of Western European cultures, in particular the Arensburg culture, and existed from 8300 to 7700 BC.

Further to the northeast, the number of open Mesolithic sites is significantly reduced, the degree of their study is much lower, but there are also a number of bright archaeological cultures.

On the banks of glacial lakes and rivers of the Eastern Prionezh Region, a number of settlements and burial grounds of the Veretye culture dating from the end of the VIII — first half of the VII millennium BC were discovered. The main sites of this culture are Veretye 1, Sukhoe, and Popovo burial ground. This culture is characterized by products made of flint, slate and other materials: chopping tools, pommels, scrapers, knives, incisors, etc.

The main billet was a flake. Hoes made of bone and horn, knives, daggers, arrowheads, harpoons, etc., as well as wooden bows, arrows, and spears were found. The main occupations of the population were hunting elk, beaver, and other forest animals, fishing, and probably gathering. According to the nature of bone, horn and other large tools, the Veretje culture has a certain similarity with the Baltic Kunda culture and even some related to it. The burial rite of the Veretye culture carriers is represented by the materials of the Popovo burial ground.

Inventory of the Oleneostrovsky burial ground

Inventory of the Oleneostrovsky burial ground: 1-an image of the head of an elk, 2-3-an image of people, 4-5-arrows, 6-7-knives, 8-a pendant made of a bear’s fang, 9-a slate knife.

On the northern coast of Lake Onega, there are monuments of the Onega culture (VII — beginning of the V millennium BC). Here tools were made of kvaria, lydite, slate, and flint. The inventory includes many tools for grinding and polishing, cutting tools made of slate, scrapers, chisels, etc.; arrowheads and spears are made of plates. The largest necropolis of the Onega and possibly other neighboring cultures is the Oleneostrovsky burial Ground.

Sites of the Komsa culture have been discovered on the Kola Peninsula. Here, quartz, slate, rock crystal, and occasionally flint were used to make tools. Among the finds are chopping tools, chisel-shaped scrapers, scrapers, incisors, tips made of quartzite, knives, punctures. Researchers believe that the sites belonged to groups of hunters who penetrated to the coast of the Barents Sea from the west, from Scandinavia.

Among other Mesolithic cultures of the north of the European part of Russia, the materials of the Vis-1 peatland site (the second half of the VII millennium BC), located in the basin of the Vychegda River, stand out for their cultural originality. Here, thanks to the occurrence in the peat, many wooden products have been preserved: a series of bows, fragments of skis and sleds. In addition, slate axes and flint tools made of flakes and plates were found; scrapers, chisels, and scrapers.

Siberia and the Far East

Western Siberia is still very poorly studied, and the available materials do not allow us to judge the processes that took place here in the Mesolithic.

In Eastern Siberia, the sites of Mesolithic man are known on the Taimyr Peninsula, in the Baikal region, as well as in the Lena River basin.

Several sites with flint implements typical of the Mesolithic period have been discovered on Taimyr. At the Tagenar VI site, a fire pit, reindeer and bird bones, as well as flint products — nuclei, incisors, knives made of plates, scrapers-were found. Radiocarbon and spore-pollen analyses made it possible to date the monument to the IV millennium BC, i.e., to the middle of the Atlantic period. The site was located in the forest zone of the Northern Taiga type and was synchronous with the monuments of the Middle Neolithic in most of the northern territories of Eastern Europe.

In the Baikal region, multi-layered monuments are known, including Mesolithic layers, which are called Badai, Verkholensky, Baikal and Kansk, the first two groups are studied in more detail. Badai (by the Badai parking lot) parking lots are concentrated in the middle reaches of the Angara River. At the Ust-Belaya site, 16 cultural layers were studied, which are divided into three chronological stages – from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic. In the Mesolithic layers belonging to the middle stage of the monument’s existence, 46 bonfires were found. In one of the pits, the burial of a dog was discovered, 8 pendants made of red deer teeth were preserved on the remains of the collar. A set of flint tools includes scrapers, scrapers, knives, etc. Rarely found tips have an oval shape. There are bone tools — harpoon heads, fragments of spears, fish hooks, Among the jewelry there are pendants made of drilled animal teeth and colored stone.

Verkholepsky parking lots are located in the upper reaches of the Lena River, along the Angara and Selenga rivers. During the excavations of the Verkholenskaya Gora-1 site in Irkutsk, three cultural horizons were identified, which the authors of the excavations date back to the XI, IX and VII thousand BC. The remains of the fauna indicate that the main occupations of the population were hunting red deer, roe deer, elk and the extraction of large fish-taimen, sturgeon, whitefish. In the inventory of the parking lots, in addition to the usual set of tools, a significant place was occupied by chopping forms. The blanks were varied: flint chips, plates, and tiles.

In the middle reaches of the Lena River, in the upper reaches of the Aldan River and on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk, the sites of the Sumnagin culture (late VIII— IV thousand BC) are common. In the inventory of the multi — layer site on the Aldan-Belkachi-1, there are prismatic and conical nuclei, plates, angular incisors, end scrapers. People hunted elk, reindeer, roe deer, and later-brown bear, bird, engaged in fishing. The origin of the Sumnagin population is associated with the carriers of the Kokorev culture of the Late Paleolithic on the Yenisei.

The Mesolithic period in Primorye, according to archaeologists, was short. The development of the Stone Age industries of the Far East was influenced by the Mesolithic of the neighboring territories-China and the Japanese Islands. Very peculiar Late Paleolithic cultures (Ustinovskaya and Osipovskaya), which not all researchers refer to the Upper Paleolithic, were replaced by sites with microlithic inventory. In the center and in the south of Primorye, about 15 sites were discovered, located on the gentle slopes of river terraces and dating back to the VII-VI millennium BC.

Multi-layered Mesolithic sites have been found in the center of Kamchatka Peninsula near Lake Ushkovo. The flint inventory includes conical and prismatic nuclei, plates, deposits, scrapers on flakes, products with double-sided processing (bifaces). The Kamchatka sites are close to the monuments of the Sumnagin culture and probably show the progress of these tribes further to the northeast.

The site of Zhokhov on one of the islands of the De Longa Archipelago in the northern group of the Novosibirsk Islands, which has been studied since the 1990s, testifies to the development of the most remote lands with a harsh climate by the Mesolithic man. Ancient people came here from the northern regions of Eastern Siberia. They hunted reindeer, polar bear and other animals, and used tamed sled dogs. Arrowheads, adzes, chisels made of chalcedony, slate, as well as organic materials — bone, tusk, wood, and plant fibers-were found in the inventory.

Brief conclusions

Summing up, it should be emphasized once again that the Mesolithic is a very important page in the history of mankind. During this era, previously empty regions that were freed from the ice sheet are being settled, and various cultural traditions interact in this process. It is in the Mesolithic that natural conditions are formed, which determine the unevenness in the pace and nature of development of different regions, which is then traced throughout the history of mankind.

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