Eastern Europe’s “Transitional Industry”? Deconstructing the Early Streletskian

Robert Dinnis* (Corresponding Author), Alexander Bessudnov, N. Reynolds, Thibaut Devièse, Alexander E. Dudin, Abi Pate, Mikhail V. Sablin, Andrei Sinitsyn, Thomas Higham

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Streletskian is central to understanding the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic on the East European Plain. Early Streletskian assemblages are frequently seen as marking the Neanderthal-anatomically modern human (AMH) anthropological transition, as well as the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic archaeological transition. The age of key Streletskian assemblages, however, remains unclear, and there are outstanding questions over how they relate to Middle and Early Upper Palaeolithic facies. The three oldest Streletskian layers—Kostenki 1 Layer V, Kostenki 6 and Kostenki 12 Layer III—were excavated by A. N. Rogachev in the mid-20th century. Here, we re-examine these layers in light of problems noted during Rogachev’s campaigns and later excavations. Layer V in the northern part of Kostenki 1 is the most likely assemblage to be unmixed. A new radiocarbon date of 35,100 ± 500 BP (OxA- X-2717-21) for this assemblage agrees with Rogachev’s stratigraphic interpretation and contradicts later claims of a younger age. More ancient radiocarbon dates for Kostenki 1 Layer V are from areas lacking diagnostic Streletskian points. The Kostenki 6 assemblage’s stratigraphic context is extremely poor, but new radiocarbon dates are consistent with Rogachev’s view that the archaeological material was deposited prior to the CI tephra (i.e. >34.3 ka BP). Multiple lines of evidence indicate that Kostenki 12 Layer III contains material of different ages. Despite some uncertainty over the precise relationship between the dated sample and diagnostic lithic material, Kostenki 1 Layer V (North) therefore currently provides the best age estimate for an early Streletskian context. This age is younger than fully Upper Palaeolithic assemblages elsewhere at Kostenki. Other “Streletskian” assemblages and Streletskian points from younger contexts at Kostenki are briefly reviewed, with possible explanations for their chronostratigraphic distribution considered. We caution that the cultural taxon Streletskian should not be applied to assemblages based simply on the presence of bifacially worked artefacts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages46
JournalJournal of Paleolithic Archaeology
Early online date13 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2021


  • Middle Palaeolithic
  • Upper Palaeolithic
  • Anatomically modern humans
  • Neanderthals
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • Lithic assemblages


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