2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


HOLLIDAY, Vance, Geosciences, The Univ of Arizona, Gould-Simpson Bldg, Tucson, AZ 85721 and HOFFECKER, John F., Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, Univ of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0450, vthollid@email.arizona.edu

The Kostenki localities contain an array of Paleolithic open-air sites in a well-stratified context beneath the first and second terraces of the Don River. Discovered in 1879, the Kostenki sites have had a significant impact on Paleolithic archaeology in Eastern Europe. The stratigraphic continuity among these sites has long been recognized and has been a primary means of correlating the many occupation sequences. This paper presents the results of the first systematic study of site microstratigraphy, site chronology, and site formation processes at multiple localities on the second terrace. The strata are grouped into three units (bottom up): Unit 1, >50 ka, consists of coarse alluvium and colluvium, not visible in most sites and sections, overlain by fine-grained sediments. Unit 2 includes archaeological horizons sealed within two sets of thin lenses of silt, carbonate, chalk fragments, and organic-rich soils (the Lower Humic Beds and Upper Humic Beds) dating ~50-26 ka. Horizons buried in the lower part of Unit 2 contain Upper Paleolithic assemblages with prismatic blade cores, burins, end-scrapers, nonlithic implements, and personal ornaments, and a fragmentary specimen of possible figurative art. Other assemblages excavated from Unit 2 (e.g., Kostenki 12, Layer III) contain some Middle Paleolithic elements and lack nonlithic implements, ornaments, and possible art. Separating the Humic Beds is a volcanic ash lens identified as the Y5 tephra from the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption in Italy, dated elsewhere by Ar/Ar to ~39 ka. The Humic Beds appear to result from the complex interplay of soil formation, spring deposition, slope action, and other processes. The springs and seeps, which are present in the area today, emanated from the bedrock valley wall. This environment may account for the unusually high concentration of Upper Paleolithic sites in this part of Russia. Unit 3, <26 ka comprises redeposited loess with a buried soil (Gmelin Soil) overlain by a primary full-glacial loess with an associated Chernozem (Mollisol), forming the surface of the second terrace. The lower part of Unit 3 contains several rich Gravettian occupation levels that include large feature complexes. Younger Upper Paleolithic occupations (Epi-Gravettian) in Unit 3 include examples of mammoth-bone structures.