Palaeoenvironmental changes during the Middle and Early Upper-Paleolithic in the UpperTysa Depression, Ukraine (the Sokyrnytsya and Ruban’ sites)

Keywords: lithopedostratigrpahy, palynology, short-period environmental phases, cultural levels


The aim of the study is the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments of the Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic in the Upper-Tysa Depression, related to short-period Upper Pleistocene changes. Stratigraphical, palaeopedological, pollen and archaeological methodologies have been applied in the study of several excavations at the Sokyrnytsya 1 and Ruban’ sites. Intense translocation processes (during formation of Luvisols and Albic Luvisols) during Late Pleistocene warm phases and Holocene, frequently transformed the material of underlying cold-phase non-soil sediments. The last are revealed in the lower horizons of palaeosols by their pollen assemblages, indicative of a periglacial climate, and by the levels with cryoturbations. The pollen succession of the last interglacial is found in the well-developed Kaydaky Luvisol. The presence of beech growing during the second half of the interglacial is a special feature of Transcarpathia. Above, two interstadials and two stadials are revealed in the early glacial. At Sokyrnytsya 1, Middle Palaeolithic first appeared at the very end of the last interglacial (when boreal forests dominated), and it is traced through sediments of the early glacial interstadials. The small collections of artefacts and the absence of specialized features on them do not allow them to be assigned to a specified technological-typological complex. During the interstadials of the early glacial (‘pl1’ and ‘pl3’), Luvisols and Cambisols developed beneath woodland, dominated by pine, but with admixture of deciduous trees, under a south-boreal climate. The cultural level at Ruban’, located in the transitional horizon from the late Pryluky soil to the Uday loess unit, is related to the Quina-type industry. Its analogues are quite common in Western Europe, but up to now have not been known to the east of the Carpathians. At that time, broad-leaved trees disappeared; the climate became cooler and drier. The presence of dry seasons is indicated by a level with abundant Fe-Mn concretions. At Sokyrnytsya 1, the Early Upper Palaeolithic non-Aurignacian cultural level is found in the Vytachiv unit (Middle Pleniglacial, around 38 - 39 ka BP). It is characterized by a technological-typological complex which has its analogue only in Eastern Europe (Kostenki XIV). In Vytachiv times, woodland, dominated by small-leaved trees,alternated with open landscapes of forbs and sedges. The climate was transitional from south-boreal to boreal. The Upper Palaeolithic level, which also is not related to a distinctive culture, is located above the level of the Bug (Late Pleniglacial), cryoturbations which deeply dissect the Vytachiv unit. The presence of both West European and East European archaeological industries and the exceptional palaeoenvironmental features of the studied area demonstrate its importance in the European context.

Author Biographies

N. P. Gerasimenko
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
L. Kulakovska
Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
V. Usik
Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
O. Votiakova
Institute of Archaeology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine


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