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Kostenki: Landscape Archaeology of the early Upper Paleolithic on the central East European Plain

The famous Upper Paleolithic sites at Kostenki are located on the west bank of the Don River outside the city of Voronezh (Russian Federation).  An international project at Kostenki (and nearby Borshchevo) during 2001-2004 and 2007-2008 focused on excavation and analysis of the early Upper Paleolithic occupations (i.e., those antedating 30,000 years ago).  The earliest occupations underlie a volcanic tephra (CI Y5) that is 40,000 years old and provides an important chrono-stratigraphic marker at Kostenki and Borshchevo.  Most of the sites are found along large side-valley ravines on what was, at the time, the first terrace above the river. Springs are active today in the ravines around Kostenki, and analysis of the sediments indicates that they were active during early Upper Paleolithic times, and may have been a draw for both large animals and people.  During these times, the occupants of the Kostenki sites hunted groups of horses (sometimes other large mammals, including reindeer) in the ravines and butchered the carcasses at or near their camps. 

Pokrovskii Ravine mouth on the west bank of the Don River and setting of Kostenki 1 (north side) and 12 (south side) (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2007).An active spring in the upper reaches of Pokrovskii Ravine (photograph by J.F. Hoffecker August 2007).Topographic setting of Kostenki 1 on 2nd Terrace at Pokrovskii Ravine mouth (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2008).Excavation of Kostenki 1 (Layer V) by A.V. Dudin in August 2007 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Concentration of bones on Layer III at Kostenki 1 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2008).Bifaces recovered from early Upper Paleolithic Layer V at Kostenki 1 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Mammoth bone (lunar) from Layer V at Kostenki 1 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Aleksandrovka Ravine and setting of Kostenki 8 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2007).Topographic setting of Kostenki 17 on 2nd Terrace in Don Valley (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2008).V.T. Holliday in test trench at Kostenki 17 excavated by A.A. Sinitsyn (21 August 2008).Tanya Popova excavating Layer II at Kostenki 8 (8 August 2008).Kostenki 8 Layer II floor excavation of V.V. Popov (photo by J.F. Hoffecker 15 Aug 08).West wall of 2007 Kostenki 1 excavation of M.V. Anikovich (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Anosova Ravine and setting of Kostenki 2 & 11 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Borshchevo 5 excavation of S.N. Lisitsyn in August 2008 (photo by V.T. Holliday).Borshchevo 5 south wall showing upper humic bed and CI tephra (photo V.T. Holliday August 2008).Borshchevo 5 mapping horse bone in Layer III  (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2008).Kostenki 14 setting on 2nd Terrace in Pokrovskii Ravine (photo by J.F. Hoffecker August 2008).Excavation of mammoth bones at Kostenki 14 upper level in August 2007 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Excavation of Kostenki 14 Layer IVb in August 2007 (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Bladelets and other artifacts from Kostenki 14 Layer IVb (photo by A.A. Sinitsyn).Bones of hare exhibiting cut-mark from Kostenki 14 Layer IV (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Bones of horse exhibiting fresh breakage from Kostenki 14 Layer II (photo by J.F. Hoffecker).Scrapers from Kostenki 14 Layer II (photo by J.F. Hoffecker courtesy of A.A. Sinitsyn).Spring tufa at Kostenki 14 (photo by V.T. Holliday August 2008).Lens of primary carbonate in west trench at Kostenki 1 (photo by V.T. Holliday August 2008).

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