New Stone-Age Sites in the Gubskoye Ravine

The Gubskoye (or Borisovskoye) Ravine is in the foothills of the North-western Caucasus on the border between the Republic of Adygea and the Krasnodar Region. This area is well-known to archaeologists: since the 1950s archaeologists such as A.A. Formozov, V.P. Lyubin, P.U. Autlev, H.A. Amirkhanov and E.V. Belyaeva have been studying sites of the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic here.
In 2006 E.V. Belyaeva discovered the Chygai rock shelter here — a multi-level site containing Mesolithic habitation levels. Next to the rock shelter the Dvoinaya Cave was found. The deposits in it also yielded up materials dating from the Early Holocene epoch. Thanks to this discovery, it became possible to trace the history of the micro-region covering a period of more than 30,000 years from the end of the Mousterian period to the Neolithic.
In 2007–2009 the Chygai rock shelter and the Dvoinaya Cave were excavated over small areas: the cultural deposits were examined by archaeologists down to a depth of over two metres, but that was not the whole of its thickness.
The materials found at the rock-shelter site were spread over a broad chronological period — according to preliminary estimates dating back to between 15 and 8,000 years ago. The largest and most striking collection of finds came from the lower habitation level dating from the Upper Palaeolithic period, where a small hearth and a working area round it have been partially excavated. The area in question is bordered on the side of the slope by a large stone slab. The collection of finds obtained so far included a series of unusual flint inserts for which there are no parallels in materials from other settlements, a large number of scrapers, cores and products of their knapping — blades and micro-blades and also numerous splinters from the bones of large ungulates. In the higher levels finds were made which resulted from various occupations of the site in the Mesolithic period.
The large number of remains of mollusc shells from edible snails (Helix pomatia) found at the excavated sites makes it possible to assume that the levels containing them were of relatively similar date, within the range of 8,300–11,200 years ago. Despite this, the assemblage of stone tools from the Chygai rock shelter differs from that of the Dvoinaya Cave. At the same time the materials from these sites have various features in common with stone assemblages from sites situated further east, from the Baksanskoye Ravine in Kabardino-Balkaria — the Sosruko Cave and the Badynoko rock shelter. Important evidence pointing to contacts in an easterly direction and probably to periodic migrations of the ancient population from the East is provided by finds of isolated flakes of obsidian to be found in plentiful amounts in the Baksanskoye Ravine, although it does not appear in the basin of the River Gubs. These flakes of obsidian are found in both Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic levels.
In the Dvoinaya Cave the Upper Mesolithic level was covered by large slabs of limestone up to one metre thick, above which cultural deposits from the Stone Age were not found in the area under investigation. Partial collapse of the cave roof could be attributed to large fluctuations in temperature or to seismic activity. Traces of similar catastrophic events have not so far been recorded at the Chygai rock shelter. The upper levels at that site have been disturbed by recent digging over and natural damage — erosion and seasonal watercourses. The assemblage of stone artefacts found in them is small to date: several characteristic features probably point to a link between these finds and the Neolithic or Chalcolithic periods, yet no pottery from those periods has as yet been found.
This recent work in the Gubskoye Ravine has already made it possible in this initial phase of the investigation to trace complex cultural processes, which took place over quite a long period against a background of significant changes in the environment, to identify various methods of adaptation used and to chart ancient migration routes used by the primitive hunter-gatherers inhabiting the area.

E.V. Leonova

Digital publication