3. Mesolithic and Neolithic Mortuary Complexes in the Baikal Region
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Mesolithic and Neolithic Mortuary Complexes in the Baikal Region Vladimir I. Bazaliiskii * As many as 90 Mesolithic and Neolithic cemeteries or individual graves have been documented in the basins of the Angara and Upper Lena rivers, the lower reaches of the Selenga River, the Vitim River, and the coast of Lake Baikal in East Siberia (Fig. 3.1). Based on these materials numerous modelsofMiddleHoloceneculturehistoryhavebeenproposedfortheBaikal region, although current research has demonstrated that a number of important questions still remain open. The existing diversity of viewpoints on the origins, development, interplay, cultural transformations, and chronology of the Middle Holocene cultures of the region indicates the substantial complexity of the subject matter (Aseev 2003; Bortvin 1915; Chernetsov 1973; Debets 1930; Gerasimov 1955; Khlobystin 1978; Konopatskii 1982; Konstantinov 1928; Mamonova 1973; Okladnikov 1950, 1955b, 1978; Ovchinnikov 1904; Podgorbunskii 1928a; Savel’ev and Medvedev 1973; Sosnovskii 1924; Svinin 1976; Weber and Link 2001; Zubkov 2000). One problem is the specificity of the archaeological materials that form the empirical foundations for identification of the various cultural and chronological units. The Kitoi culture was defined in 1904 in response to a perceived necessity to separate Neolithic from Bronze Age graves recovered from the Glazkovo suburb of the city of Irkutsk. The Kitoi culture was defined as Neolithic, although it was manifest archaeologically only through mortuary complexes. All subsequent culture-historical models were also based on the examination of grave assemblages. According to A. P. Okladnikov , “. . . the broad use of mortuary materials facilitates a more flexible, richly detailed, and perfect typological classification” (1950:53). Various * Translated by A. W. Weber. ‹ 3 › 52 3.1. Mesolithic and Early Neolithic cemeteries in the Baikal region: 1 location of Mesolithic and Early Neolithic cemeteries; 2 Khin’ Pad’ Late Mesolithic grave; 3 Lokomotiv-Raisovet Grave 8, point on prismatic blade; 4 Khin’ Pad’ Late Mesolithic grave, point on prismatic blade; 5 and 6 prismatic blades (Lokomotiv-Raisovet Grave 8); 7 Khin’ Pad’ Late Mesolithic grave, bone point; 8 Khin’ Pad’ Late Mesolithic grave, point with notch on prismatic blade; 9 Khin’ Pad’ Late Mesolithic grave, bifacial point (spear head?); 10 Ershi site map. Note: 2–4 and 7–9 after Okladnikov 1950:161, fig. 16–4, and after Okladnikov 1975:248, fig. 1:6–8. Mesolithic and Neolithic Mortuary Complexes in the Baikal Region 53 attempts, by Okladnikov and other scholars, to link mortuary assemblages with materials from campsites and to identify Khin’, Isakovo, Serovo, Kitoi, and Glazkovo habitation layers were unsuccessful because artifacts present in the latter context were essentially absent in the former. Furthermore, recent attempts to employ the radiocarbon method have also been unsuccessful, as demonstrated by a series of 14 C determinations obtained for the Ust’-Khaita campsite (Savel’ev et al. 2001). Consequently, in order to develop a culture history model for materials from habitation sites, some scholars resorted to pottery studies and identified a number of ceramic “layers” (plasty). Six such layers have been defined: net-impressed; Khaita; cord-impressed; Posol’sk; combed; and Ust’-Belaia (Savel’ev 1989). However, only the net-impressed style has ever been documented in graves, in the form of ritual vessels with smoothed or unsmoothed net impressions. The excavation of several large cemeteries during the second half of the 20th century, extensive radiocarbon dating resulting in more than 500 dates available for the Baikal region, and the substantial amount of modern laboratory tests conducted recently have together produced an enormous amount of empirical data. Considered as a whole, this material implies that mortuary assemblages represent the “culture of the other world,” which has little in common with culture development, interplay, and transformation. Radiocarbon dating of the Lokomotiv and Ust’-Ida cemeteries (114 and 86 dates on bone, respectively) has demonstrated that they were used for 1,000 and 700 years, respectively, and that the mortuary ritual and morphology of grave goods did not change during this time. Taken as a whole, the assemblages of grave goods from both sites display a ritual character, while the ideology behind their manufacture clearly complies with the traditions and categories of design for use in the afterworld. Consequently, these artifacts do not find parallels in material from habitation sites. Whilematerialsfromtheso-calledsealedassemblagesdo,indeed,display spatial and temporal parallels and differences and, as noted by Okladnikov (1950, 1955), facilitate a more flexible typological classification, they are applicable and limited only to this particular type of archaeological source. For these reasons, the culture history models for the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age in the Baikal region rely...



Subject Headings

  • Human remains (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Burial -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Baikal, Lake, Region (Russia) -- Antiquities.
  • Neolithic period -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
  • Hunting and gathering societies -- Russia (Federation) -- Baikal, Lake, Region.
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