The Initial Upper Palaeolithic of Siberia and Central Asia, from roughly 50 000 to 47 000 years ago, is noted for the appearance of a technology based around long blades unlike anything seen in other parts of the world until the dawn of the Bronze Age. These blades, which could be up to 35 cm in length, and were typically 5-6 cm in width, were not used as a single tool, but rather a source from which smaller blades could be quickly broken off, by either striking them with a rock, breaking them over an anvil such as a stick or rock, or in the case of the very finest examples, possibly simply snapping them by hand. No Human remains have ever been found in association with these tools, but they are generally thought to be associated with the arrival of the first Early Modern Humans in the region.
In a paper published in the journal Archaeological Research in Asia on 24 May 2018, Vyacheslav Slavinsky and Evgeny Rybin of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Arina Khatsenovich, also of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, and Natalia Belousova, again of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, describe the presence of intentionally fragmented long blades at the Late Pleistocene Kara-Bom Site in the Altai Republic of southern Siberia.
The Kara-Bom Site is an open-air multi-layered site situated in an inter mountain depression in the central Russian Altai range, which was excavated by a series of expeditions between 1980 and 1993, and which has been dated to between 48 350 and 45 200 years before the present. The site has yielded an Initial Upper Paleolithic assemblage of chert stone tools, which appear to be consistent with the long blade technology.
Map of Kara-Bom site location in the Russian Altai region. Slavinski et al. (2018).
Slavinski et al. examined 66 artifacts from Kara-Bom which appeared to show affinities with the fragmented long blade technology. From these they were able to reassemble two complete large blades, and a number of partial blades. These appear to have been made by breaking the original blade on a hard anvil with a stone hammer.
Initial Upper Paleolithic artifacts with traces of intentional fragmentation from the Kara-Bom site: (1), (1a) Reconstructed core on large blade, fragmented by percussion directed toward dorsal ridge; (1b) fragment of core with traces of intentional fragmentation on the two narrow sides; (1c) intermediate “butterfly-like” fragment. Slavinski et al. (2018).
Intentionally fragmented long blade tools have been found at a number of sites in southern Siberia, though most of these lack the accurate dating available at Kara-Bom. Dates are known from the Tolbaga Site in the Transbaikal Region, and the Tolbor 4 Site in northern Mongolia, but these are much younger, between 43 000 and 39 000 years old, so that the Kara-Bom material significantly extends the appearance of the long blade technology, and by extension Modern Humans, into northeastern Asia.
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