The Neolithization of Siberia and the Russian Far East: Radiocarbon Evidence

Article excerpt

Introduction

Neolithization (i.e. the emergence of pottery) is one of the most important phenomena in Old World archaeology. In Northeast Asia, the term `Neolithic' means the presence of well-developed pottery in the assemblage (Chard 1974: 63-4). The vast territory of Siberia and the Russian Far East in northern and northeastern Asia, c. 12,000,000 sq. km, includes different climatic and vegetation zones, from arctic deserts and tundra to the mixed coniferous broad-leafed forests and steppes (Suslov 1961) (FIGURE 1). This entire region has, a great diversity of Neolithic cultures (cf. Okladnikov 1970; Ackerman 1982; Michael 1992; Dumond & Bland 1995; Oshibkina 1996).

[Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The territory under consideration is also quite heterogeneous in terms of timing of pottery emergence. The southern part of the Russian Far East has evidence of very early pottery manufacture, starting at c. 13,200 radiocarbon ([sup.14]C) years ago (BP) (Kuzmin & Jull 1997; Kuzmin et al. 1998), which is almost simultaneous with pottery emergence in southern Japan at c. 12,700 BP (Aikens 1995). In Transbaikal, the oldest Neolithic sites have been dated to c. 11,500-10,800 BP (Kuzmin & Orlova 1998). In other parts of Siberia and the Russian Far East, the first evidence of pottery production is associated with quite young radiocarbon dates, c. 8000-6000 BP.

Thus, the process of Neolithization in these territories was non-synchronous. The aim of this paper is to present updated radiocarbon information about the age of the earliest Neolithic cultures in Siberia and the Russian Far East, in order to analyse the spatial-temporal features of the process of pottery origins and spread in the area at the Late Glacial and Early-Middle Holocene, c. 13,000-6000 BP.

Material and methods

Before the 1990s, few compilations of [sup.14]C dates for the Neolithic of Siberia were available. The most comprehensive English summary of the Siberian Neolithic [sup.14]C chronology was compiled by Michael (1992), and reflected the state of the art as of the early 1980s. In the late 1980s and 1990s, several [sup.14]C date lists were published (Mamonova & Sulerzhitsky 1989; Orlova 1995; 1998; Timofeev & Zaitseva 1996; 1997; Zaitseva & Timofeev 1997; Kuzmin et al. 1998).

Using all these data as a background, we have summarized the [sup.14]C dates for the earliest Neolithic cultures throughout Siberia and the Russian Far East (FIGURE 1; TABLE 1), For calibration of the [sup.14]C dates later than 10,000 BP, we used the Groningen calibration computer program CAL15 for dates 3300-6000 BP (van der Plicht 1993), and an extension from a sequence based upon German and Irish oaks for dates 6000-10,000 BP (Pearson et al. 1993; Kromer & Becker 1993). For the Groningen program, we combined all the possible time intervals together. The calibrated age ranges are presented for [+ or -] 2[Sigma] (sigma), 95.4% probability (TABLE 1). For the calibration of [sup.14]C dates greater than 10,000 BP, we used the revised CALIB 3.0 program (Stuiver & Reimer 1993).

TABLE 1. Radiocarbon dates of the earliest Neolithic cultures in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

# site name, layer                       coordinates

                                 latitude            longitude

Western Siberia
1  Sopka 2, burial 68        55 [degrees] 42'N    76 [degrees] 47'E
2  Tashkovo 1                55 [degrees] 55'     64 [degrees] 25'E
3  Leushi 7                  59 [degrees] 38'     65 [degrees] 42'E
4  Sumpanya 4                59 [degrees] 29'     67 [degrees] 44'E
5  Protoka, barr. 5, gr. 4   56 [degrees] 32'     76 [degrees] 40'E
   Protoka, barr. 5, gr. 4
6  Ches-Tyui-Yag, dw. 4      64 [degrees] 13'     60 [degrees] 55'E
   Ches-Tyui-Yag, dw. 3

Altai Mountains
7  Kornachak 2               53 [degrees] 48'     84 [degrees] 52'E
8  Kaminnaya Cave            50 [degrees] 54'     84 [degrees] 18'E

Sayany Mountains
9  Ust-Khemchik 3            51 [degrees] 44'     91 [degrees] 49'E

Yenisei River Basin
10 Eleneva Cave, layer 11d   55 [degrees] 56'     92 [degrees] 18'E
11 Kazachka, layer 6         55 [degrees] 42'     95 [degrees] 30'E

Angara River Basin
12 Kitoi Yarki               52 [degrees] 35'    104 [degrees] 07'E
13 Gorely Les, layer 6       53 [degrees] 36'    103 [degrees] 12'E
14 Lokomotiv                 52 [degrees] 18'    104 [degrees] 15'E
15 Ust-Kova, layer 2         58 [degrees] 20'    100 [degrees] 20'E

Lake Baikal Region
16 Ulan-Khada, layer 10      53 [degrees] 12'    107 [degrees] 02'E
   Ulan-Khada, layer 10
17 Fofanovo                  52 [degrees] 12'    107 [degrees] 00'E

Upper Lena River Basin
18 Makrushino, burial 1      53 [degrees] 53'    106 [degrees] 35'E
   Makrushino, burial 2
   Makrushino, burial 9
19 Nikolskaya Skala          54 [degrees] 14'    105 [degrees] 35'E

Transbaikal Region
20 Ust-Karenga, layer 7      54 [degrees] 27'    116 [degrees] 36'E
   Ust-Karenga, layer 7
21 Ust-Kyakhta, layer 1(? …