Russian archeologists together with their colleagues from the USA, Great Britain and Italy claim that the age of Eastern Europe’s most ancient human settlements (complex of sites is named Kostenki and is located on the shores of River Don) is 42-45 thousand years. This fact means that Homo sapiens inhabited Eastern Europe in the same time or even earlier than Central and Western Europe. One possible reason is that human expansion had several parallel waves, and it is confirmed with significant difference between ancient upper Paleolithic cultures of Eastern and Western Europe.
Human beings of modern type (Homo sapiens), who bore so-called upper Paleolithic (Aurignacian) culture, have inhabited Central and Western Europe about 40-42 thousand years ago. As for the south of Central Europe, they appeared there a little bit earlier. Chronology of modern human expansion to Eastern Europe is poorly studied – the thing is that detecting exact age of primal people sites is a difficult task.
Kostenki, a unique complex of upper Paleolithic human sites, is located in Voronezh region on the western shore of River Don. Kostenki unites about 30 ancient human sites of various age, moreover, some of them have several layers, which means ancient people had been living here for a long period of time. Scientists from Saint Petersburg’s Institute of History of Material Culture and their colleagues from various scientific institutions of Russia, USA, Great Britain and Italy have finally published the results of long-term studies of exact age of said sites in Science Magazine.
Layer of volcanic ash, found in some regions of Central and Eastern Europe, aged about 40 000 appeared to be a great support for scientists in their research – it helped archeologists to find exact age of their findings. Age of ash was specified by means of radioactive tracer method (40Ar/39Ar) –most ancient layers, containing upper Paleolithic artifacts, are lower than said ash layer, in other words, they are older. Other techniques for age detection were radiocarbon dating, luminescent and paleomagnetic dating and sporo-pollen analysis. The whole lot of data obtained evidently shows that modern humans – carriers of upper Paleolithic culture – have lived in Voronezh region as long as 42-45 thousand years ago.
Artifacts, found in most ancient layers, evidently belong to upper Paleolithic period, which is confirmed by various items made of bone, mammoth bones, in particular, looking like a small unfinished sculpture. However, this complex differs significantly from typical Aurignacian culture, which is common for Central and Eastern Europe. Possible explanation is that modern humans, which for the first time appeared in the Balkan mountains and in Eastern Europe (in the Don’s valley) nearly at the same time, belonged to different tribes and came from different places: first ones most probably came from Levant and Asia Minor, as for the second ones – they originate from Transcaucasia or Central Asia.
Archeologists argue a lot about transition from middle to upper Paleolithic, in other words from traditional Neanderthal culture to upper Paleolithic culture of Homo sapiens. This transition is quite abrupt in Western and Central Europe and gradual in Central Asia with evident cultural continuity. In Eastern Europe this transition was closer to Western European type, i.e. it was abrupt and kind of explosive. Kostenki complex also hosts middle Paleolithic sites, which have no bone remains, but are considered to belong to local Neanderthals. Neanderthal sites have sharp differences from upper Paleolithic sites – they lack items made of bone and horn, as well as decoration items and works of art.
Moreover, some stone items of ancient upper Paleolithic sites in Kostenki are made of stone, which could be found only 100-150 km away from the site, as for shells, which were found there too, could have been brought only from the Black sea coast 500 km away. All items, found at middle Paleolithic sites, were made from local materials. One more important difference between middle and upper Paleolithic sites of the region is bones of large-sized animals found at first ones and bones of little and middle-sized animals and birds at second ones. All mentioned facts confirm the hypothesis that modern humans came to Eastern Europe about 45 thousand years ago and slowly replaced its ancient inhabitants (supposedly Neanderthals).