Zaraysk B

The Zaraysk settlement and territory adjacent to it in the historic part of the town of Zaraysk present as a group of Upper Palaeolithic sites in close proximity to each other or even overlapping each other. Of the four settlements designated with the letters A–D, the one which has been studied in most detail is the multi-level settlement Zaraysk A which has a complex stratigraphy and has yielded up many finds including art objects which have become widely known. The monograph written by a team of contributors, which came out in 2009, provided as it were a summary of the research carried out at the Zaraysk A site between 1999 and 2005.
A new phase in the study of Palaeolithic cultural remains began with the excavation of the Zaraysk B site — a settlement towards the rear of the outcrop north of the one on which the Kremlin (citadel) stands and separated from it by an ancient ravine. This site is of interest in that it contains only the upper habitation level, which is linked lithologically with the upper buried soil in the context of the general archaeological stratigraphy of the Zaraysk sites of the Palaeolithic period. The lower layers, typical for Zaraysk A, are not to be found at the Zaraysk B site. The geological stratigraphy here is also somewhat different.
The excavated area at the Zaraysk B settlement measures more than 100 m2. Most of the finds were low down in the humic horizon of the upper buried soil. The horizontal and vertical distribution of the finds indicates that they date from a very narrow time range. Spores and pollen analysis indicates that the habitation level had taken shape in the buried soil at a time of relative warmth, following on from the maximal stage of the Valdai glaciation.
Important characteristics of the site are the undisturbed nature of the cultural layer and the spatial distribution of the finds. Using the refitting method it was possible to establish the spatial links between various features. At the Zaraysk B site there is a single-level settlement making it possible to carry out a detailed study of the specific nature of economic and household activities and fairly confidently to divide the site up into zones within which various of the activities took place. This enables us to piece together not only details of everyday life, but also certain features of the behaviour of the ancient site’s inhabitants.
The range of tools includes types of flint artefacts traditional for the Kostenki-Avdeevo culture. Particular attention should be paid to a small series of backed truncated bladelets, which differ from the usual tools of this type found at Zaraysk A as regards the raw material used, the processing technique and their morphology.
The faunal remains found in this cultural layer derive, with rare exceptions, from mammoths. There are only a few isolated examples of wolf, bison and reindeer bones.
The site is a one-level base camp for hunters of the Late Glacial period living in the North-east of the Russian Plain. It provides promising opportunities for Palaeo-historical reconstructions and provides plenty of opportunities for further research. The stone industry continues the traditions of the famous Kostenki archaeological culture and — viewed more widely — those of the cultural phenomenon of the Late Glacial period known as the “Eastern Gravettian” and typical for the Upper Palaeolithic in Central and Eastern Europe. Radio-carbon dates point to the fact that these traditions were not interrupted during the maximal stage of the Valdai glaciation and were still in existence in the Russian Plain at least 15–16,000 years ago.

H.A. Amirkhanov and S.Y. Lev

Digital publication