Ethnic and Cultural Interactions of Nations in Eurasia (2006)
The following is the report presented at the 7th AASA General Assembly held on 23 November 2006 in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Ethnic and Cultural Interactions of Nations in Eurasia (2006)
.. Project manager: Academician Vyacheslav I. Molodin
Affiliation: Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
In the framework of an international cooperation between the Academies of Sciences of Asia international groups of archaeologists continued the study of the ancient past of the Central Asia.
In the framework of one of the most important research trends – the study of the most ancient periods of man concerned with its primary migration from Africa – an international expedition was organized. It combined the efforts of the scientists from Russia (Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and Islamic Republic of Iran (Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization). Special attention focused on the territory of the South-West Asia is explained by the fact that it was a transit territory of migration flows of ancient people from Africa to Eurasia. Thus, the study of the objects of the Early Palaeolithic on this territory and correlation with the oldest complexes of the North and Central Asia create the necessary prerequisites for studying the genesis of the earliest cultures in the boundary Euro-Asian area and the processes of the first developing of this continent by man.
In 2006 the Russian-Iranian archaeological expedition conducted a preliminary research on new complexes of the Stone Age in the northern and north-western parts of Iran (the provinces Ardebil, Giljan, Mazandaran and Gulistan). For one month more than 40 new Palaeolithic sites have been found. They are related to a wide chronological range from the Early Palaeolithic to the final stages of the Stone Age. The most important for understanding of the ancient history are the findings related to the earliest stages of the human infancy. Stone artefacts found at one of the new locations in the North-Western Iran are more than one million years old.
Not of less importance nowadays is the problem of appearance of man of the modern anthropological type and its settling all over the earth. In this respect, the territory of the Central Asia also attracts much attention of archaeologists because it was a kind of a “transit bridge” between the early human populations that inhabited the East Asia and the rest part of the Palaeolithic oecumene. The data cumulated by the end of the middle and early periods of the Upper Palaeolithic of the North and Central Asia enables to take a fresh view over some questions which are fundamental for understanding the development of the human culture in this period of the Stone Age. Inspite of the certain specificity of the cultural appearance of the Early Upper Palaeolithic industries of the mentioned periods, a number of common technical and typological features can be defined. Along with the same time of its appearance (about 50-40 000 A.D.) it allows to speak about the transcontinental industry uniformity of the early period of the Upper Palaeolithic. Inevitably, this brings up the question about the reasons of such commonality of industries. Was it determined by the convergent technological development (adaptive-functional model) or by the phylogenetic relationship of the representatives of the Early Upper Palaeolithic cultures?
Among the locations of the Central Asia dated back to the transitional period between the Middle and the Late Palaeolithic, a special attention is drawn to the Obi-Rakhmat Grotto located in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Thanks to the studies of the archeological sites it was suggested that ancient people of the Early Middle Palaeolithic migrated. In this case it explains the conformity of the Near-Eastern, Middle-Asian and Altai transitional industries which had a common basis and appeared on this territory as a result of “the second migration flow” concerned with the archaic Homo sapiens. It is worth noting that the convergence of the evolutional changes, besides their general basis, was determined also by analogous Palaeolithic conditions. Levantine, Central Asian as well as Altai human populations lived in the mountains and foothills where natural resources are remarkable for their complex structure and varied mosaic. Within the limits of the same valleys, there were mixed coniferous-broad-leaved forest, fine-leaved taiga, dry steppes and meadow-steppe associations what made it possible for an ancient man to choose favourable ecological niches. Thus, the evolution of migrated groups of population was passing under analogous ecological conditions what determined (besides phylogenetic and cultural cognition of the populations) a common rhythm of the adaptive processes during the development of the culture of the Upper Palaeolithic.
Of particular importance are the remains of the ancient man found on the Obi-Rakhmat site which are about 60 000 years old. For the first time it became possible to associate the transitional industry with a concrete physical type of man. More interesting is that the remains of a Obi-Rakhmat-being demonstrate the heterogeneity of Neanderthal and modern features, what makes it possible to suppose the processes of hybridization in the Central Asia.
To solve questions also related to the transfer from the Middle to the Upper Palaeolithic on the territory of Mongolia, there was an international Russian-Mongolian-American expedition that conducted researches in the Middle Selenga River. Eventually 19 new locations of the Stone Age have been investigated. Already the primary analysis of the materials of these complexes testifies, there is a wide chronological range, from the Mousterian to the Neolithic.
One of the most interesting locations for a research is the location Tolbor-4 which archaeological materials are deposited in poorly consolidated sediments. During the archaeological sites started in 2004 and continued in the following years it was specified that archaeological materials of this location are lied under clear stratigraphical conditions: 7 bedrocks of finding depositions with a high concentration of artefacts have been found. Preliminary analysis of the archaeological material allows to make a conclusion that there is a special type of a site at this location. It is a special workshop-settlement which materials reflect different stages of the early stage of the Late Palaeolithic that illustrate different technical and cultural traditions.
A complex research of the bearing sediments was undertaken, several series of samples for the granulometric, palynologic, paleomagnetic and other types of analysis have been selected. Common research of stratigraphical profiles selected during the research by the representatives of different natural-science and humanitarian disciplines enables to follow the dynamic and the character of changes of the objects of the material culture through time as well as to define the degree and kind of dependence of these changes on natural conditions of ancient human habitation. Comparison of the results obtained in the North Mongolia with good studied objects of Gobi and Mongolian Altai, Transbaikalia and Gorny (Mountainous) Altai gives an opportunity to take a fresh look (taking into account local cultural variations) at the problem of the initial entering this territory by man with anatomical features of a modern man. The further research studies will enable to uncover the mechanism of settling of these territories by ancient man, the routes of migration of ancient populations as well as the dynamic of development of Palaeolithic industries in a wide chronological range. It is worth noting that field and office studies are conducted by attracting a wide range of specialists: archaeologists, geologists, geomorphologists, paleogeographists, paleontologists, etc. It enables to consider the central problem – paleoecology in Pleistocene – in a close connection to the dynamic of Palaeolithic industries of ancient populations.
With a brilliant discovery was accomplished the work of the Russian-German-Mongolian archaeological expedition in the mountains of Mongolian Altai where a “frozen” burial of Pazyryc culture was discovered. It wasn’t damaged by ancient robbers and is dated back to the beginning of the III century B.C. The buried warrior was laid into a foliferous felling at almost one meter height in the form of a truncated pyramid, and on its top two horses were laid. Thanks to the ice lens appeared on the bottom of the burial and the felt horsecloth covered its top a kind of a “heat-insulated” object was formed. It prevented the organic matters, excluding soft tissues of the body (because the dead wasn’t embalmed), from destroying.
There were beautiful adornments in a form of gryphons, iron bits with wooden psalia, and the rest of the saddles found on the both horse skeletons. On one of the saddles there was a shield with an accurate ornament. For the first time there was a covering found over all wooden adornments for horses made of silver sheets, tin obviously. There was a wooden dish with a fat-tail part of the sheep and an iron knife, an antler vessel and a big clay vessel on the felt pedestals found among the other funeral implements.
Fundamentally new finding was a bow remained in a very good condition. It is the first safe Scythian bow: it is puff, glued of thin wooden sheets and braided with a superfine leather. Wooden arrows without feathering with arrow-heads (a true imitation of the bronze ones) cut out of wood have been also found in a set with the bow. Also an iron dagger in sheathe and an iron fighting tooth with a strong wooden handle have been found.
The buried himself had a fur coat which was remained safer as the one found in Ukok. The fur coat was sewed according to the pazyryk fashion with a “tail”. The upper part was made of marmot, the lining was made of sheepskin. There was a sable on the collar and a squirrel fur on the bottom of the fur coat. On the back there was a beautiful fur applique' work in the form of a geometric ornament. While taking off the fur coat, archaeologists found a piece of leather with a tatoo what confirmed the supposition made earlier that all the pazyryk Scythians have been tatooed.
Along with the coat beautiful short trousers and high boots have been found. The trousers were preserved perfectly and were made after the Hun fashion. A hat ornamented with wooden figures of animals covered with a superfine golden foil has been also found in a burial. On the neck of the buried man there was a wooden hryvnia with figures of wolves that was also covered by golden foil.
It is worth noting that the complex study of the discovered burial not only provided the scientists with unique material evidences of the boundary Scythian-Hun period that has been studied poorly before, but it also made group of humanitarian and natural disciplines to work in close cooperation. Samples of DNA have been taken from different parts of the body so that the secretion of a fossil chain would be possible. Microbiological, dendrochronological studies are slated for the near future. The results obtained during the excavations of the most icy lens make it possible to reconstruct the paleoenvironmental changes in the Holocene of Mongolia.This discovery has already caused a big resonance in the world: the sites have been visited by the President of Mongolia and the news have been broadcasted by BBC.
Academician Vyacheslav I. Molodin
Vice-President of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences