This second of fourteen lectures delivered by the prominent Soviet anthropologist Valery Alexeev at Harvard University concentrates on Middle Paleolithic archaeological sites with specific reference to the geographical areas of the Crimea, Southern Ukraine, Central Asia, and Siberia. The major focus of the lecture is one of Professor Alexeev's favorite topics: Paleolithic man in Eurasia. Alexeev discusses hominid finds at three specific sites: Kiik-Koba in the Crimea, Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan, and Staroselie also in the Crimea. He then opens the question as to the relationship between Neandertal and Homo sapiens 5 and contrasts the interpretations of Russian archaeologists with those of prominent American paleo- anthropologists specifically referencing Ofer Bar-Yosef at Harvard and Milford Wolpoff at University of Michigan.
According to Alexeev, Middle Paleolithic studies of the then Soviet Union are much more extensive than Lower Paleolithic researches. Approximately 50-60 sites belonging to the Middle Paleolithic period have been excavated and all represent various versions of the Mousterian Culture.
Many archaeologists try to discern between local traditions or variations and a broader and more encompassing term, "culture". Local tradition can be the result of ecological adaptation or true tradition i.e. technologies such as flint working passed down from ancestors. At these Middle Paleolithic sites, no distinctive local traditions are evident; all variations are of the Mousterian Culture.
Mousterian sites are located in the following geographical areas. In the mountainous areas of the Crimea are a special group of Mousterian cave sites. In southern Ukraine, the Dnieper Valley, along the Dniester River Valley, and along the border of Romania and the Republic of Moldavia are open air sites. Similar open air sites are also found in Russia in a region south of Moscow and close to the Ukraine, near the city of Voronezh. In the mountainous areas of the Caucasus, specifically in Georgia, there is another group of Mousterian cave sites. In Central Asia, near Tashkent, Uzbekistan there are Mousterian sites which have their own flint tradition. Also, Mousterian sites appear in Tadzhikistan. Some of these Central Asian sites are typically Mousterian while others are mixed i.e. both Mousterian and Lower Paleolithic and include primitive tools like choppers which are typical of Lower Paleolithic. In Siberia, Middle Paleolithic is known in the Altai Mountains but only based on very poor material finds. Siberian material is basically Upper Paleolithic. Mousterian tools include points, scrapers, and tools worked from both sides. The presence of Mousterian tools generally indicates Neandertal 6.
As per Alexeev, in Eurasia there are three major cave sites in which Paleolithic hominid finds have been excavated. These sites include: Kiik-Koba in the Crimea, Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan, and Staroselie also in the Crimea. Professor Ofer Bar-Yosef from Harvard University plans to visit the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) in the near future to date some of these early sites, including Teshik-Tash, which were excavated before C-14 dating became commonplace.
Kiik-Koba, in the Crimea, is a Mousterian cave site excavated by Gleb Bonch-Osmolovskii in 1924-1925 7. The term Kiik-Koba is the Turkic word meaning "mountain goat cave". Excavation of the site by Bonch-Osmolovskii reveals a culture sequence of two layers with the lower level producing a disturbed grave containing the skeletal remains of an adult and a child.
The remains of the child, although poorly preserved, were reconstructed in 1976 by the major Czech paleoanthropologist Emanuel Vlcek 8 for the National Museum of Prague. The remains of the adult, consisting only of one hand and two feet, have been reported on by Bonch-Osmolovskii in two books written in Russian: one on the hand published in 1941 9 and one on the two feet published in 1954 10; summaries are in French. The adult skeletal remains consist of extremely massive bones even when compared to Classic Neandertal from France. Of special interest is the first finger of the hand; the basal bone is flat at the bottom and there is no opposable thumb; even in Classic Neandertal there is some opposability of the thumb.
Skeletal remains from the Kiik-Koba site have not been dated. Willard Libby's book on C-14 was not published until 1952 11 and only a few preliminary articles appeared in the magazine "Science" a few years earlier. Thus at Kiik-Koba in the Crimea we have the presence of Early Neandertal with no opposable thumb but with a Mousterian Culture 12.
Teshik-Tash is a very small cave site located in the mountains of Central Asia near Bajsuntau, 350 km. southwest of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This site was excavated in one season, 1938, by Aleksei Okladnikov. The site report was published by Okladnikov in 1940 13 and contains a description of the human remains by Georgii Debetz 14.
Because World War II had just begun, the report and casts of the remains from Teshik-Tash were sent to Franz Weidenreich at the Laboratory of Human Paleontology in Beijing, China. Weidenreich later brought the casts to the Museum of Natural History in New York so both American and Soviet scholars could have access 15.
The Teshik-Tash finds reveal Mousterian tools with Neandertal skeletal remains. The remains were of a child, nine or ten years of age, with the skull crushed into over a hundred pieces. Reconstruction of the skull indicates the following morphological details: a weak development of the chin; a strong upper brow; a flat forehead bone (typical of Neandertal in classic form); great height to the skull; and a modern structure to the face. Debetz claims the child is Classic Neandertal, similar to European finds, while Weidenreich claims the child has many progressive features more similar to Progressive Neandertal of the Near East, particularly from Skhul and Qafzeh in Israel 16. Scholars currently agree with Weidenreich.
Originally the remains of the child were considered to be that of a male. Now, based on reconstruction of adult dimensions and stature by M.M. Gerasimov 17, the remains, measuring 142 cm, are now considered female. Grave goods consisting of wild goat horn as well as scrapers surrounded the skeletal remains. Some scholars believe the burial goods are accidental whereas Okladnikov believes the burial goods are intentional. Scholars today tend to agree with Okladnikov. Teshik-Tash is often cited as one of the early examples of Progressive Neandertal in a burial with Mousterian tools and other grave goods.
Staroselie Cave, according to Alexeev, is located in the Crimea and is similar to Mousterian cave sites in France and Germany. The site was excavated by A.A. Formosov 18 in 1952-57 with the burial excavated in 1953. Professor Alexeev and his wife participated in the excavation. The remains are of a child considered to be approximately one year old; however, some American paleontologists think two to three years old (a female paleontologist from University of Pennsylvania thinks two to three years old). Morphologically the skull cap is large (the child possibly suffered from hydrocephaly), there is an absence of a thick brow, and the projection of the head is modern. There is no doubt that the burial is Homo sapiens sapiens. Based on the contents of organic material in the skeletal remains, C-14 dating has revealed three absolute dates at 52,000 - 60,000 + 4 - 5,000 BC. Thus we have at Staroselie the remains of Homo sapiens sapiens with Mousterian tools at a date ca. 52-60,000 BC.
As per the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia", Staroselie is a cave site near the city of Bakhchisarai in the Crimea. The site is of the Mousterian culture, was discovered by Formosov in 1952, and the remains of the child has many sapiens traits which distinguish it from Neandertal; the child is either a representation of Homo sapiens or a form between Neandertal and Homo sapiens.
Based on the above evidence, it appears that the Mousterian Culture can relate to both Neandertal and Homo sapiens. Compared with some absolute dates by Ofer Bar-Yosef of early Homo sapiens sapiens from Skhul and Qafzeh at 100,000 BC, Staroselie (52,000 - 60,000 + 4-5,000 BC) is a late date. Compared with Saint Cesaire, France 19, a site excavated five to six years ago depicting morphologically typical (likely late) Neandertal with culture tools of early Upper Paleolithic and dating at 34,000 BC - 37,000 BC, Staroselie is an early date. This comparison demonstrates how complex was the formation of Homo sapiens sapiens.
An analysis of the geographic distribution of Neandertal and Homo sapiens is as follows. At Shanidar 20 in Iraq are found completely primitive skeletons (Neandertal) dating to 60,000 BC - 70,000 BC. At Amud Cave in Israel is primitive Neandertal, similar to Shanidar in Iraq. At Qafzeh in Israel is Homo sapiens dating to 100,000 BC and at Skhul in Israel is Homo sapiens dating similarly at 100,000 BC. The distance from Amud (primitive Neandertal) to Kafzeh (Homo sapiens sapiens) in Israel = 15 km; the distance from Amud (primitive Neandertal) to Skhul (Homo sapiens) in Israel = 20 km.
Modern human forms i.e. Homo sapiens sapiens first appear in Israel at Skhul and Kafzeh at 100,000 BC. They then appear in the Crimea at Staroselie at 60,000 BC. However, in Iraq at Shanidar is primitive Neandertal at 60 - 70,000 BC; at Amud in Israel is primitive Neandertal at 60 - 70,000 BC; and in the Crimea at Kiik-Koba (not dated) is primitive Neandertal.
In the Crimea at Staroselie (at 60,000 BC) is a modern morphology; in the Crimea at Kiik-Koba (not dated) is a primitive morphology. However, both Staroselie and Kiik-Koba have similar Mousterian artifacts and the geographic distance = 50 km. As is true above, the cultures are mixed; Mousterian is usually associated with Neandertal, but also can be associated with a modern morphology. At Staroselie is a modern morphology with a primitive Mousterian culture; this is in opposition to Saint-Cesaire where there is a primitive morphology and an advanced culture.
Professor Bar-Yosef views this early landscape as being comprised of various hominid groups with various cultural traditions moving through the region but with these various groups not being in contact with each other. Professor Alexeev disagrees and believes there must have been contact: "we know something about the longevity of these various groups but nothing aboout their demography".
Most ssholars believe Neandertal has nothing to do with the formation of Homo sapiens. This view is countered by Professors Alexeev and Wolpoff. Milford Wolpoff in Paleoanthropology 21, one of the better books accessible to non experts, claims that Classic Neandertal did in some geographic areas relate to Homo sapiens. Classic Neandertal became extinct 40 - 50,000 years ago. Professor Alexeev sees no significant genetic variability (less than 10%) between Neandertal and Homo sapiens to prevent breeding: "Homo sapiens neandertalinsis and Homo sapiens sapiens have morphological differences no greater than that between Bushmen and Eskimos or between Scandinavians and Australian aborigines".
In Siberia archaeological dates do not exceed 40,000 BC. i.e. there is a general absence of a Mousterian Culture
In this the third lecture delivered by Professor Alexeev, slides are presented depicting remains from Middle Paleolithic sites. Two new Mousterian sites are introduced: Mezin and Molodova and a brief geography of the western Siberia is given.
Alexeev continues: in addition to the Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) sites of Kiik-Koba in the Crimea, Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan, and Staroselie also in the Crimea, there are two additional sites located in Ukraine: Mezin and Molodova.
Mezin 22 is located in the Dnieper Valley of Ukraine. As per Alexeev, at this site a house composed of mammoth bones and skins has been discovered. This find is quite intriguing in that a nomadic group could feed and shelter themselves for an entire winter season based on the kill of one mammoth.
As per the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia", Mezin was discovered by F.K. Volkov in 1908 and periodically investigated from 1909-1961 by P.P. Efimenko, M. Ia. Rudinskii, I.G. Shovkoplias and others. At the site are remains of dwellings and places where flint and bone were worked. Hearths were dug outside dwellings; the dwellings have a diameter of up to 6 m. and are built directly on the ground. Other dwellings are made of wood, covered with skins and edged with bones of animals.
More than 4,000 flint tools have been found as well as sculptured female figurines and animals of ivory. Drawings on large mammoth bones were made with red ochre; seashells of southern origin were used as pendants.
Molodova 23 is located in Southwest Ukraine on the right bank of the Dniester River. The site was investigated in the 1950's and 1960's by O.P. Chernysh. This site is of importance because settlements of various periods ranging from Mousterian to Mesolithic have been discovered; and here is found early evidence of building construction. At the site a structure of bones encircling tools has been found; likely fire was kept in the center. This site also produces Mousterian artifacts and tools. C-14 dates are at 44,000 BP as per the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia".
The number of Mousterian sites in Eurasia is 60 +; many are known only by tools found on the surface while others have been excavated. In general, these Mousterian sites are concentrated in several geographical areas. Only a few sites are found in the North regions i.e. nothing from Finland etc. All sites are located in flat areas where the climate is comfortable. Open air sites have been located in Central Russia, an area of great forests and huge steppes. In the Crimea and East Central Asia, caves were used as houses; here there is no evidence of wooden or bone construction. Open air and cave sites are indicative of Mousterian. Middle Paleolithic = Mousterian.
The physical anthropology of these Mousterian sites is as follows. The site of Kiik-Koba in the Crimea produced an individual with extremely massive bones and without an opposable thumb. This is identified by Alexeev as Early Neandertal. At Teshik-Tash in Uzbekistan, Mousterian tools are found with Neandertal skeletal remains. Scholars are in general agreement that these remains are of Progressive Neandertal. At Staroselie in the Crimea, C-14 dating at 52-60,000 BC places Homo sapiens sapiens with Mousterian tools. At Mezin and Molodova we have building construction associated with Mousterian artifacts and tools. Based on this evidence, the Mousterian Culture can relate to both Neandertal and Homo sapiens.
In western Siberia the Ob River runs south to north. This area is a flat plain at sea level. The Yenissei River begins in the south Siberian Mountains and proceeds north. The Lena River begins near Lake Baikal and also flows north