Institute for the History of Material Culture RAS
Pervobytnaia arkheologiia. Zhurnal mezhdistsiplinarnykh issledovanii
Prehistoric Archaeology. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies
Pervobytnaia arkheologiia. Zhurnal mezhdistsiplinarnykh issledovanii
Prehistoric Archaeology. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Stepanchuk V. N. Bifacial products from the upper layer of the site of Mira in the Dnieper region: context, techno-morphological features, and current interpretations.

Download Look on

Institute of Archaeology NASU, Heroiv Stalinhrada Ave, 12, Kyiv, Ukraine, 04210 []

Resume. Located in the Dnieper valley and dated to ca. 32,000–31,000 cal BP, the site of Mira is characterized by a high level of conservation of human activity evidences. A large number of lithic products, faunal remains, bone items, including engraved objects, as well as anthropological remains have been discovered here. An important specific characteristic of the site is its position in an area without lithic raw material outcrops. Lithic industry of Mira, layer I, can confidently be regarded as homogenous and containing no admixtures. At the same time, it is multi-component and includes specific Middle and Upper Palaeolithic tool types. Bifacial products constitute the essential archaic feature and are a focus of the presented paper. As a pivotal issue several related tasks are considered: to evaluate whether intensive use and recycling can distort the set of bifacial artefacts; to understand what role (core vs. tool) did bifacial artefacts play in technological chaîne operatoire under the conditions of shortage of raw materials; to examine which analogies for bifacial products of Mira, layer I, can be found, based on their technology and morphology. The analysis of available data allows concluding that the initial set of bifacial products was definitely distorted: some bifaces were used as cores, whilst the others were significantly reshaped and reduced. At the same time, no indication exists that the bifaces in question served as mobile cores from the outset. Instead, they actually played a role of occasional situational cores. Bifacial products were sometimes intentionally fragmented. The same practice of intentional fragmentation was widely applied to flake tools. The industry is characterized by a fairly frequent use of anvil splitting technology. Techno-morphological features of bifacial products from layer I give grounds for searching the closest analogies in local Micoquian-related Middle Palaeolithic assemblages. The combination of bifacial leaf-shaped points and Aurignacian features is an essential feature of the inventory and determines the search for analogies among the Szeletian and Streletskaya assemblages.

Keywords: Eastern Europe, Upper Palaeolithic, bifacial products, raw material shortage, Szeletian, Micoquian, Aurignacian.

Received 25.09.2019, revised 08.10.2019, accepted 11.10.2019.

DOI: 10.31600/2658-3925-2019-2-5-34

For citation: Stepanchuk V. N. Bifacial products from the upper layer of the site of Mira in the Dnieper region: context, techno-morphological features, and current interpretations. Prehistoric Archaeology. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies. 2019 (2), 5-34 (in Russ.). DOI: 10.31600/2658-3925-2019-2-5-34


Adams B. 2009. The Bükk Mountain Szeletian: Old and new views on “transitional” material from the eponymous site of the Szeletian. In: Camps M., Cauhan P. R. (eds.). Sourcebook of Paleolithic Transitions: Methods, Theories, and Interpretations. New York: Springer, 427–440.

Allsworth-Jones Ph. 1986. The Szeletian and the transition from Middle to Upper Palaeolithic in Central Europe. Oxford: Clarendon-Press.

Allsworth-Jones Ph. 2014. Middle to Upper Palaeolithic: what modalities? В: Васильев С. А., Ткач Е. С. (ред.). Верхний палеолит Северной Евразии и Америки: памятники, культуры, традиции. СПб.: Петербургское востоковедение, 125–139.

Anikovich M. V., Anisiutkin N. K., Vishniatskii L. B. 2007. Uzlovye problemy perekhoda k verkhnemu paleolitu v Evrazii. SPb.: “Nestor-Istoriia” Publ. (in Russian).

Anikovich M. V., Popov V. V., Platonova N. I. 2008. Paleolit Kostenkovsko-Borshchevskogo raiona v kontekste verkhnego paleolita Evropy. SPb.: “Nestor-Istoriia” Publ. (in Russian).

Bamforth D. B. 2003. Rethinking the role of bifacial technology in Paleoindian adaptations on the Great Plains. In: Soressi M., Dibble H. L. (eds.). Multiple Approaches to the Study of Bifacial Technologies. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 209–228.

Bodianskii A. V. 1960. Must’erskaia stoianka u skaly Orel (v Dneprovskom Nadporozh’e). KSIA AN USSR9, 117–122 (in Russian).

Boëda E., Geneste J.-M., Meignen L. 1990. Identification de chaînes opératoires lithiques du Paléolithique ancien et moyen. PALEO 2, 43–80.

Borziac I., Chirica V. 2008. Paleoliticul superior din spaţiul carpato-nistrean (cronostratigrafie, culturogeneză, paleoecologie. Tyragetia 1, 9–36.

Bosinski G. 1967. Die Mittelpalaeolithichen Funde im Westlichen Mitteleuropa. Fundamenta A/4. Köln, Graz: Böhlau Verlag.

Bosinski G. 1969. Die Bocksteinscmiede im Lonetal (kr. Ulm). Veroeffentlichungen des Staatlichen Amtes fuer Denkmalpflege. Stuttgart.

Bradley B. A., Anikovich M., Giria E. 1995. Early Upper Palaeolithic in the Russian Plain: Streletskayan flaked stone artefacts and technology. Antiquity 69, 989–998.

Chabaj V. P. 2004. Srednij paleolit Kryma. Simferopol‘: “Shljah” Publ. (in Russian).

Chabaj V. P. 2012. Dolja ostannih neandertal‘civ Shidnoi‘ Jevropy. Arheologija 3, 5–26 (in Ukrainian).

Cohen V. Yu., Stepanchuk V. N. 1999. Late Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic Evidence from the East European Plain and Caucasus: a New Look at Variability, Interactions, and Transitions. Journal of World Prehistory 13, 265–319.

Demars P.-Y., Laurent P. 1989. Types d’outils lithiques du Paléolithique supérieur en Europe. Cahiers du Quaternaire 14. Paris: Presses du CNRS.

Eren M. I., Andrews B. N. 2013. Were bifaces used as mobile cores by Clovis foragers in the North American Lower Great Lakes region? An archaeological test of experimentally derived quantitative predictions. American Antiquity 78, 166–180.

Geneste J.-M. 1985. Analyse lithique d’industries moustérienes du Périgord: une approche technologique du comportement des groupes humaines au Paléolithique moyen. Thèse de doctorat, Université de Bordeaux I.

Gerasimenko N. P. 2002–2003. Evoliutsiia pedosedimentov po dannym osnovnogo razreza stoianki Mira; Istoriia smeny landshaftov v meste raspolozheniia stoianki po dannym osnovnogo razreza stoianki Mira; prilozhenie 3 Pollen data. In: Stepanchuk et al. Mira. Novyi pozdnepleistotsenovyi pamiatnik na Srednem Dnepre (pervye rezul’taty polevykh issledovanii 2000 g.). Nauchnyi arkhiv IA NANU. Kiev, 29–49; 202–205 (in Russian).

Gerasimenko N. P., Ezarts P. 2013. Opisanie lito-pedostratigrafii osnovnogo razreza. Severnaia stenka osnovnogo raskopa, dannye 2000–2001 gg. Prilozhenie. In: Stepanchuk V. N. 2013. Mira: stoianka rannego verkhnego paleolita na Dnepre. Stratum plus 1, 99–101 (in Russian).

Gladilin V. N. 1976. Problemy rannego paleolita Vostochnoi Evropy. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Russian).

Haesaerts P., Damblon F., Gerasimenko N. P., Stepanchuk V. N., Cohen V. Yu., Kovalyukh N. N. 2014. Stratigraphy, paleoenvironment and chronostratigraphic background of the Mira succession (Zaporozhiye, Central Ukraine), midway between Carpathians and Don. Études et recherches archéologiques de l’université de Liège 144, 33–58.

Hauck T., Rethemeyer J., Rentzel P., Schulte P., Heinze S., Ringer A., Richter J., Chu W., Lehmkuhl F., Vogels O. 2016. Neanderthals or Early Modern Humans? A revised 14C chronology and geoarchaeological Study of the Szeletian sequence in Szeleta cave (Kom. Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén) in Hungary. Archäologisches Korrespondezblatt 46, 271–290.

Hoffecker J. F. 2011. The early Upper Paleolithic of Eastern Europe reconsidered. Evolutionary Anthropology 20, 24–39.

Hoffecker J. F., Holliday V. T., Stepanchuk V. N., Brugère A., Forman S. L., Goldberg P., Tubolzev O., Pisarev I. 2014. Geoarchaeological and bioarchaeological studies at Mira, an early Upper Paleolithic site in the Lower Dnepr Valley, Ukraine. Geoarchaeology 29, 61–77.

Hoffecker J. F., Holliday V. T., Stepanchuk V. N., Lisitsyn S. N. 2017. The hunting of horse and the problem of the Aurignacian on the central plain of Eastern Europe. Quaternary international 492, 53–63.

Jöris O. 2006. Bifacially backed knives (Keilmesser) in the Central European Middle Palaeolithic. In: Goren-Inbar N., Sharon G. (еds.). Axe Age: Acheulian Tool-making from Quarry to Discard. London: Equinox, 287–310.

Kaminská L., Kozłowski J. K., Škdrla P. 2011. New approach to the Szeletian — chronology and cultural variability. Eurasian Prehistory 8, 29–49.

Kolesnik A. V. 1996. K opredeleniiu funktsional’noi variabel’nosti pamiatnikov srednego paleolita Donbassa. Arkheologicheskii al’manakh 5, 49–70 (in Russian).

Kolosov Iu. G. 1978. Spetsificheskie tipy orudii must’erskoi ak-kaiskoi kul’tury v Krymu. In: Telegin D. Ia. (ed.). Orudiia kamennogo veka. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ., 6–19 (in Russian).

Kolosov Iu. G. 1983. Must’erskie stoianki raiona Belogorska. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Russian).

Kolosov Iu. G. 1986. Ak-kaiskaia must’erskaia kul’tura. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Russian).

Kolosov Iu. G., Stepanchuk V. N., Chabai V. P. 1993. Rannii paleolit Kryma. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Russian).

Kolosov Yu. G., Stepanchuk V. N. 2000. Crimean assemblages with bifacial tools: brief review. Études et recherches archéologiques de l’université de Liège 95, 265–275.

Kot M. A. 2014. The earliest Palaeolithic bifacial leafpoints in Central and Southern Europe: Techno-functional approach. Quaternary International 326–327, 381–397.

Kot M. A. 2016. Technological analysis of bifacial leafpoints from Middle/Upper Palaeolithic transitional industries. Quartär 63, 61–88.

Kozłowski J. K. 2003. From bifaces to leaf points. In: Soressi M., Dibble H. L. (eds.). Multiple Approaches to the Study of Bifacial Technologies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 149–164.

Kozłowski J. K. 2014. Middle Palaeolithic variability in Central Europe: Mousterian vs Micoquian. Quaternary international 325–327, 344–363.

Kuhn S. L. 1994. A Formal Approach to the Design and Assembly of Mobile Toolkits. American Antiquity 59, 426–442.

Kunitsia N. A. 2007. Priroda Ukrainy v pleistotsene po dannym malakofaunisticheskogo analiza. Chernovtsy: “Ruta” Publ. (in Russian).

Le Brun-Ricalens F. 2006. Les pièces esquillées: état des connaissances après un siècle de reconnaissance. PALEO 18, 95–114.

Markó A. 2015–2016. Considerations on the lithic assemblages from the Szeleta cave. Communicationes Archaeologicae Hungariae 2015–2016, 5–44.

Matvii’shyna Zh. M. 2013. Mira, paleopedologichne doslidzhennja. In: Stepanchuk V. M., Matvii’shyna Zh. M., Ryzhov S. M., Karmazynenko S. P. Davnja ljudyna. Paleogeografija ta arheologija. Kyi’v: “Naukova dumka” Publ., 124–133 (in Ukrainian).

Matvii’shyna Zh. M., Gerasymenko N. P., Perederij V. I., Karmazynenko S. P., Nagirnyj V. M., Parhomenko O. G. 2010. Prostorovo-chasova koreljacija paleogeografichnyh umov chetvertynnogo periodu na terytorii’ Ukrai’ny. Kyi’v: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Ukrainian).

Mel’nychuk I. V. 2004. Paleolandshafty Ukrai’ny v antropogeni. Kyi’v: “Obrii’” Publ. (in Ukrainian).

Mester Z. 2014a. Technologie des pièces foliacées bifaces du Paléolithique moyen et supérieur de la Hongrie. In: Biro K. T., Marko A., Bajnok K. P. (eds.). Aeolian scripts. New ideas on the lithic world. Studies in honour of Viola T. Dobosi. Budapest: Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, 41–62.

Mester Z. 2014b. Le Szélétien. In: Otte M. (ed.). Néandertal / Cro Magnon. La Rencontre. Arles: Éditions Errance, 149–188.

Nuzhnyj D. Ju. 1994. Pizn’opaleolitychna stacija Vorona 3 na Dniprovyh porogah ta i’i’ misce sered orin’jaks’kyh pamjatok Shidnoi’ Jevropy. Arheologycheskyj al’manah 3, 204–216 (in Ukrainian).

Păunescu A. 1998. Paleoliticul şi mezoliticul de pe teritoriul Moldovei cuprins între Carpaţi şi Siret. Bucureşti: Editura Satya Sai.

Petrun’ V. F. 2002–2003. Petrograficheskie dannye. In: Stepanchuk et al. Mira. Novyi pozdnepleistotsenovyi pamiatnik na Srednem Dnepre (pervye rezul’taty polevykh issledovanii 2000 g.). Nauchnyi arkhiv IA NANU. Kiev, 211–212 (in Russian).

Praslov N. D., Rogachev A. N. (eds.). 1982. Paleolit Kostenki-Borshchevskogo raiona na Donu. L.: “Nauka” Publ. (in Russian).

Ringer Á. 2001. Le complexe techno-typologique du Bábonien-Szélétien en Hongrie du Nord. Études et recherches archéologiques de l’université de Liège 98, 213–220.

Ringer Á., Mester Z. 2000. Résultats de la révision de la grotte Szeleta entreprise en 1999 et 2000. Anthropologie (Brno) 38, 261–270.

Rudenko L. G. (ed.) 2007. Nacional’nyj atlas Ukrai’ny. Kyi’v: “Kartografija” Publ. (in Ukrainian).

Sinitsyn A. A. 1996. Kostenki 14 (Markina Gora), Data, Problems, and Perspectives. Préhistoire européenne 9, 273–313.

Sinitsyn A. A. 2000. Composants Archaiques de Assamblage Lithique de Kostenki XIV (Couch 2). Études et recherches archéologiques de l’université de Liège 95, 295– 307.

Sinitsyn A. A. 2010. The early Upper Palaeolithic of Kostenki: Chronology, Taxonomy, and Cultural Affiliation. In: Neugebauer Ch., Owen L. R. (eds.), New aspects of the Central and Eastern European Upper Paleolithic — methods, chronology, technology and subsistence. Mittelungen der Prähistorischen Komission 72, 27–48.

Sirenko S. A., Mel‘nichuk I. V., Turlo S. I. 1990. Razvitie issledovanii i rekonstruktsiia antropogenovykh paleolandshaftov na Ukraine. In: Palamarchuk M. M. (ed.). Razvitie geograficheskoi nauki v Ukrainskoi SSR. Kiev: “Naukova dumka” Publ., 50–63 (in Russian).

Škrdla P. 2014. Bifacial technology at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic in Moravia. Litikum 4, 5–8.

Slavinsky V. S., Rybin E. P., Khatsenovich A. M., Belousova N. E. 2018. Intentional fragmentation of blades in the initial upper Paleolithic industries of the Kara-Bom site (Altai, Russia). Archaeological Research in Asia 17, 50–61.

Smyrnov S. V. 1973. Paleolit dniprovs‘kogo Nadporizhzhja. Kyi‘v: “Naukova dumka” Publ. (in Ukrainian).

Soressi M., Hays M. A. 2003. Manufacture, transport, and use of Mousterian bifaces: a case study from the Périgord (France). In: Soressi M., Dibble H. L. (eds.). Multiple Approaches to the Study of Bifacial Technologies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 125–147.

Stepanchuk V. M., Kojen V. Ju., Gerasymenko N. P., Damblon F., Ezarts P., Zhuravl‘ov O. P., Kovaljuh M. M., Petrun‘ V. F., van der Pliht J., Puchkov P. V., Rekovec‘ L. I., Terner H. G. 2004. Bagatosharova stojanka Mira na Seredn‘omu Dnipri: osnovni rezul‘taty rozkopok 2000 roku. Kam’jana Doba Ukrai‘ny 5, 62–98 (in Ukrainian).

Stepanchuk V. M., Kovaljuh M. M., van der Plyht J. 2004. Radiovuglecevyj vik pizn‘oplejstocenovyh paleolitychnyh stojanok Krymu. Kam’jana Doba Ukrai‘ny 5, 34–61 (in Ukrainian).

Stepanchuk V. N. 1994. Kiik-Koba lower layer type industries in the Crimea. Préhistoire européenne 6, 157–173.

Stepanchuk V. N. 2002. Pozdnie neandertal‘tsy Kryma. Kiik-Kobinskie pamiatniki. Kiev: “Stilos” Publ. (in Russian).

Stepanchuk V. N. 2003–2004. Stojanka Mira v Srednem Podneprov‘e: k voprosu o gomogennosti paleoliticheskih sloev. Stratum plus 1, 187–205 (in Russian).

Stepanchuk V. N. 2003. Tafonomiia kul‘turnykh ostatkov i vkliuchaiushchikh geologicheskikh sloev na stoianke Mira. Kam’jana Doba Ukrai‘ny 4, 138–149 (in Russian).

Stepanchuk V. N. 2005. The archaic to true Upper Paleolithic interface: the case of Mira in the Middle Dnieper area. Eurasian Prehistory 3, 23–41.

Stepanchuk V. N. 2013. Mira: stojanka rannego verhnego paleolita na Dnepre. Stratum plus 1, 15–110 (in Russian).

Stepanchuk V. N. 2013. Small opportunities and big needs: Mira Early Upper Paleolithic case of raw materials exploitation (Dnieper basin, Ukraine). Études et recherches archéologiques de l’université de Liège 138, 131–154.

Stepanchuk V., Petrоugne V. 2005. Raw materials as source for tracing migration: the case of Mira in Middle Dnieper area. Archaeometriai Műhely 4, 38–45.

Tubol’cev O. V., Busel V. A. 2001. Pamjatniki srednego paleolita mezhdurech’ja Dnepra i Konki. Muzejnyj visnyk 1, 9–16 (in Russian).

Zalizniak L. L., Belenko N. N. 2011. Stoianka seletskogo kruga na rechke Vys’ v tsentral’noi Ukraine (issledovaniia 2007 i 2008 gg.). Stratum plus 1, 261–273 (in Russian).

Zaliznjak L. L., Belenko N. N., Ozerov P. I. 2013. Stojanka Vys‘ ta i‘i‘ misce v paleoliti Ukrai‘ny. Kam’jana Doba Ukrai‘ny 15, 75–105 (in Ukrainian).