Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1407–1419 | Cite as

Early geometric microlith technology in Central Asia

  • K. KolobovaEmail author
  • A. Krivoshapkin
  • S. Shnaider
Original Paper


Until recently, every industry with geometric microliths in Central Asia has been classified as Mesolithic solely on the basis that this technology appeared quite late in the region. The situation was further complicated by the absence of absolute dates for Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites from this region. Recent research has proved a clear association between the earliest geometric microliths in Central Asia and the Upper Paleolithic Kulbulakian culture (Shugnou, layer 1; Kulbulak, layer 2.1). The most comprehensive archeological collection in Central Asia that documents the shift from the production of non-geometric microliths (backed bladelet, Arzheneh points) to geometric microliths (scalene triangles) in a very early chronological context is Dodekatym-2 site. The main morphometric characteristics of the Central Asian Upper Paleolithic geometric microliths correspond to the development of the Upper Paleolithic and Epipaleolithic of the Near East (Masraquan cultures) and the Middle East (Zarzian culture). The absolute dates available for the Dodecatym-2 site are older than presently known ones for the early Epipaleolithic Levantine industries with geometric microliths, thus making it possible to conclude that Central Asia was at least one of the microlitization origin centers.


Central Asia Microlitization Geometric microliths Non-geometric microliths Scalene triangles 



We are grateful to the Russian Scientific Foundation (RNF), project #14-50-00036 “Multidisciplinary Research in Archaeology and Ethnography of Northern and Central Asia” for the support of analytical part of this research. The attributive analysis of Upper Paleolithic geometric and non-geometric microliths was supported by Council on grants of the President of the Russian Federation #МD-2845.2017.6. Comparisons of Central Asian Upper Paleolithic with Levantine and Zagros techno-complexes have been supported by RFBR project #18-09-00222 А. Drawings were made by N.V. Vavilina and A.V. Abdulmanova from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS. The authors are indebted to their colleagues from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS, the Institute of Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, for the fruitful discussions during the field studies and the preparation of this article.


  1. Bar-Yosef O (1970) The Epipalaeolithic culture of Palestine. Dissertation, Hebrew UniversityGoogle Scholar
  2. Bar-Yosef O (1998) On the nature of transitions: the middle to upper Palaeolithic and the Neolithic revolution. Camb Archaeol J 8(2):141–163. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belfer-Сohen A, Gorring-Morris N (2002) Why microliths? Microlithization in the Levant. In: Elston RG, Kuhn SL (eds) Thinking small: global perspectives on microlithic technologies. Santa Fe, NM: American Anthropological Association, pp 57–68Google Scholar
  4. Belfer-Сohen A, Gorring-Morris N (2014) The upper Palaeolithic and earlier epi-Palaeolithic of western Asia. The Cambridge World Prehistory 3:1381–1407. Google Scholar
  5. Brown KS, Marean CW, Jacobs Z, Schoville BJ, Oestmo S, Fisher EC, Bernatchez J, Karkanas P, Matthews T (2012) An early and enduring advanced technology originating 71,000 years ago in South Africa. Nature 491:590–593. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bronk Ramsey C (2009) Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51:337–360. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Byrd BF (1994) Late Quaternary hunter-gatherer complexes in the Levant between 20,000 and 10,000 BP. In bar-Yosef O and Kra RS (ed.) late Quaternary chronology and paleoclimates of the eastern Mediterranean. Tucson. Radiocarbon:265–276Google Scholar
  8. Davis RS, Ranov VA (1999) Recent works on the Paleolithic of Central Asia. Evol Anthropol 8:186–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Flas D, Kolobova K, Pavlenok K, Vandenberghe D., De Dapper M., Leschisnky S., Viola B., Islamov U., Derevianko AP, Cauwe N (2010) Preliminary results of new excavations at the Palaeolithic site of Kulbulak (Uzbekistan). Antiquity 84, 325. Accessed 25 Mar 2017
  10. Ghasidian E, Bretzke K, Conard N (2017) Excavations at Ghar-e Boof in the Fars Province of Iran and its bearing on models for the evolution of the upper Palaeolithic in the Zagros Mountains. J Anthropol Archaeol 47:33–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gisis I, Gilead I (1977) Lagama III. In: Bar-Yosef O, Phillips JL (eds) Prehistoric investigations in Gebel Maghara, northern Sinai. QEDEM 7, the Hebrew University of, Jerusalem, pp 85–101Google Scholar
  12. Gorring-Morris N (1987) At the edge: terminal Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in the Negev and Sinai. In BAR international series 361. Oxford: ArchaeopressGoogle Scholar
  13. Gorring-Morris N (1995) Complex hunter/gatherers at the end of the Paleolithic. In: Levy T (ed) The archaeology of society in the holy land. Leicester University Press, London, pp 141–167Google Scholar
  14. Henry DO (1974) The utilization of the microburin technique in the Levant. Paleorient 2:389–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Henry DO (1989) From foraging to agriculture: the Levant at the end of the ice age. University of Pennsylvania Press, PhiladelphiaCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hole F (1997) Paleoenvironment and human Society in the Jezireh of northern Mesopotamia 20,000–6000 BP. Paléorient 23:39–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hole F, Flannery KV (1967) The prehistory of southwestern Iran: a preliminary report. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 33:147–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kolobova KA (2014) Verhnij paleolit zapadnogo Pamiro-Tjan’-Shanja. Habilitation, Dissertation, Novosibirsk (in Russian)Google Scholar
  19. Kolobova KA, Krivoshapkin AI, Derevianko AP, Islamov UI (2011) The upper Paleolithic site of Dodekatym-2 in Uzbekistan. Archaeol Ethnol Anthropol Eurasia 39:2–21. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kot M (2017) Bifacial and unifacial technology: a real difference or a problem of typoetechnological approach? The example of the Ehringsdorf assemblage. Quatern Int 428:66–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krivoshapkin A (2012) Obirahmatskii variant perehoda ot srednego k verhnemu paleolitu v Tsentral’noi Azii. Habilitation, Dissertation, Novosibirsk (in Russian)Google Scholar
  22. Leroi-Gourhan A (1988) Dictionnaire de la prehistoire. P.U.F, ParisGoogle Scholar
  23. Lewis L. (2017) Early microlithic technologies and behavioural variability in Southern Africa and South Asia, Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa. BAR Publishing: OxfordGoogle Scholar
  24. Monigal K (2004) Lithic assemblage from buran-Kaya III. Level C. In: Chabai VP, Monigal K, Marks AE (eds) The middle Paleolithic and early upper Paleolithic of Eastern Crimea. Liège: ERAUL, 104, pp 57–77Google Scholar
  25. Munro N (2009) Epipaleolithic subsistence intensification in the southern Levant: the faunal evidence. In: J-J Hublin and M P Richards (ed.) the evolution of hominin diets: integrating approaches to the study of Palaeolithic subsistence, pp 141–155. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nadel D (2003) The Ohalo II flint assemblage and the beginning of the Epipalaeolithic in the Jordan Valley. In: Belfer-Cohen A, Gorring-Morris N (eds) More than meet the eyes: studies on upper Paleolithic diversity in the near east. The Short Run Press, Oxford, pp 216–230Google Scholar
  27. Nadel D, Grinberg U, Boaretto E, Werker E (2006) Wooden objects from Ohalo II (23,000 cal BP), Jordan Valley, Israel. J Hum Evol 50:644–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nadel D, Sorel J (2005) The Flint assemblages from three successive floors in hut 1 (Ohalo II): a note on technological aspects. Journal of the Israel prehistoric. Society 35:189–200Google Scholar
  29. Nuzhnyy D (2000) Development of microlithic projectile weapons in the stone age. Anthropologie et Prehistoire 111:95–101Google Scholar
  30. Olszewski D (1993a) Zarzian microliths from Warwasi rockshelter, Iran: scalene triangles as arrow components. In: Peterkin G, Bricker H, Mellars P (eds) Hunting and animal exploitation in the later Paleolithic and Mesolithic of Eurasia. Washington (DC), American Anthropological Association, pp 199–205Google Scholar
  31. Olszewski D (1993b) The Zarzian occupation at Warwasi Rockshelter, Iran. In: Dibble H, Olszewski D (eds) The Paleolithic prehistory of the Zagros-Taurus. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, pp 207–236Google Scholar
  32. Olszewski D (2012) The Zarzian in the context of the Epipaleolithic Middle East. J Humanit 19:1–20Google Scholar
  33. Pastoors A (2000) Standardization and individuality in the production process of bifacial tools e leaf-shaped scrapers from the middle Paleolithic open air site Sare Kaya I (Crimea). In: Orschiedt J, Weniger G-C (eds) Neanderthals and modern humans, discussing the transition: central and Eastern Europe from 50.000–30.000 B.P. Neanderthal museum, Mettmann, pp 243–255Google Scholar
  34. Petraglia M, Clarkson C, Boivin N, Haslam M, Korisettar R, Chaubey G, Ditchfield P, Fuller D, Miracle P, Harris C, Connell K, James H, Koshy J (2009) Population increase and environmental deterioration correspond with microlithic innovations in South Asia ca. 35,000 years ago. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:12261–12266. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ranov VA, Karimova GR (2005) Kamennyi vek Afgano-Tadzhikskoi depressii (Stone Age of the Afghan-Tajik Depression). Devashtish Press: Dushanbe (in Russian)Google Scholar
  36. Ranov VA, Kolobova KA, Krivoshapkin AI (2012) The upper paleolithic assemblages of Shugnou, Tajikistan. Archaeol Ethnol Anthropol Eurasia 2:2–24.
  37. Reimer PJ, Bard E, Bayliss AW, Beck J, Blackwell PG, Ramsey CB, Buck CE, Cheng H, Edwards RL, Friedrich M, Grootes PM, Guilderson TP, Haflidason H, Hajdas I, Hatté C, Heaton TJ, Hoffmann DL, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kaiser KF, Kromer B, Manning SW, Niu M, Reimer RW, Richards DA, Scott EM, Southon JR, Staff RA, Turney CSM, van der Plicht J (2013) IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal bp. Radiocarbon 55:1869–1887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Richter T, Garrard AN, Allock S, Maher LA (2011) Interaction before agriculture: exchanging material and sharing knowledge in the final Pleistocene Levant. Camb Archaeol J 21:95–114. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Robinson E, Sellet F (2018) Lithic technological organization and Paleoenvironmental change: global and diachronic perspectives. Springer, New-York. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rybin EP (2014) Tools, beads and migrations: specific cultural traits in the initial upper Paleolithic of southern Siberia and Central Asia. Quatern Int 347:39–52. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Smith P (1986) Paleolithic archaeology in Iran. American Institute of Iranian Studies, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  42. Tixier J (1963) Typologie de L’Épipaléolithique du Maghreb. Art et Métiers Graphiques, ParisGoogle Scholar
  43. Tsanova T (2013) The beginning of the upper Paleolithic in the Iranian Zagros. A taphonomic approach and techno-economic comparison of early Baradostian assemblages from Warwasi and Yafteh (Iran). J Hum Evol 65:39–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tsuneki A (2013) Proto-Neolithic caves and neolitization in southern Zagros. In: Matthews R, Nashli HF (eds) The Neolithisation of Iran. Short run press, Oxford, pp 84–96Google Scholar
  45. Vandenberghe DAG, Flas D, De Dapper M, Van Nieuland J, Kolobova K, Pavlenok K, Islamov U, De Pelsmaeker E, Debeer A-E, Buylaert J-P (2014) Revisiting the Palaeolithic site of Kulbulak (Uzbekistan): first results from luminescence dating. Quatern Int 324:180–189. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Vardi J, Gilead I (2009) On the definition of errors in contexts of craft specialization: Krukowski microburins from the Beit Eshel chalcolithic flint workshop. In: Rosen SA, Roux V (eds) Techniques and people: anthropological perspectives on technology in the archaeology of the proto-historic and early historic periods in the southern Levant. de Boccard, Paris, pp 125–135Google Scholar
  47. Wahida G (1999) The Zarzian industry of the Zagros Mountains. In: Davies W, Charles R (eds) Dorothy Garrod and the progress of the Paleolithic: studies in the prehistoric archaeology of the near east and Europe. Oxbow Books, Oxford, pp 181–208Google Scholar
  48. Wilkins J, Brown KS, Oestmo S, Pereira T, Ranhorn K, Schoville BJ, Marean CW (2017) Lithic technological responses to late Pleistocene glacial cycling at pinnacle point. Site 5-6, South Africa. PLoS One 12(3):e0174051. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yaroshevich A, Nadel D, Tsatskin A (2013) Composite projectiles and hafting technologies at Ohalo II (23 ka, Israel): analyses of impact fractures, morphometric characteristics and adhesive remains on microlithic tools. J Archaeol Sci 40:4009–4023. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Yaroshevich A, Kaufman D, Nuzhnyy D, Bar-Yosef O, Weinsteiner-Evron M (2010) Design and performance of microlith implemented projectiles during the Middle and the Late Epipaleolithic of the Levant: experimental and archaeological evidence. J Archaeol Sci 37:368–388.
  51. Ziegler M, Simon MH, Hall IR, Barker S, Stringer C, Zahn R (2013) Development of middle stone age innovation linked to rapid climate change. Nat Commun 4:1905. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RASNovosibirskRussia
  2. 2.Altay State UniversityBarnaulRussia
  3. 3.Novosibirsk State UniversityNovosibirskRussia

Personalised recommendations