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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Imereti Culture (Upper Palaeolithic / Mesolithic) (North Caucasus)
c.11,200? - 6000 BC

The Upper Palaeolithic and Upper Mesolithic Epigravettian culture was one which emerged in Southern Europe shortly before the Solutrean was succeeded across much of the north by the Magdalenian culture. To its west was the Azilian, with these all forming some of the last of Europe's Palaeolithic cultures.

On the Eastern European fringe of these advances there appeared a number of more or less contemporaneous Epi-Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic cultures. This mainly took place in the steppe zone across the northern Black Sea region. Each was somewhat limited in territory (perhaps the first time such varied localisation had appeared), but each used similar chipped-stone forms of industry, and each emerged by transforming local Epigravettian complexes.

The Imereti (or Imeretian) culture emerged on the slopes of the south-western Caucasus mountain range, extending along the north-western Black Sea coast. It had at least part of its origin in the Palaeolithic Gravettian cultures of the region, which maintained contact with areas of Syria, including Palestine and the Zagros Mountains (no doubt including the Zarzian culture).

Some have placed it under the rather questionable umbrella of the Trialetian tradition, although this has not received universal acceptance. The Trialetian counted the Near East's Baradostian culture as a forebear, and the Levant's Natufian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic A cultures as contemporaries, even while the Epigravettian may also have played a part in influencing it.

In the past, archaeological cultures were usually identified not on the basis of clearly defined typological characteristics, but often by intuition. In this way, most of the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic cultures of the Caucasus were originally identified: the Black Sea (to the north of the Imeretian), Chokh, Gubs, Imereti (Imeretian), and Trialetian (the Kobuleti is not part of this group).

The introduction of micro-burin techniques and a Natufian retouch, together with the geometric microliths which appear most frequently in North Africa and the Near East, show an intensification of contact with the Natufian people of the Levant during the Holocene (9700 BC to AD 1950, after which the Anthropocene takes over).

At the same time, these new elements reached communities in the north-western Caucasus. The Imereti culture and its Palaeolithic predecessor occupants seemingly served as a transit route between Near East and the Ukrainian steppe. Especially notable are Trialetian sites at Kotias Klde and the Darkvety rock shelter.

Imeretian locations also contain the same Levantine influences, as do the other cultures which have sometimes been gathered under the Trialetian umbrella. These cultures do tend to differ, however, in the types of microliths in use, the specific nature of the manufacture of hunting weapons, and the use of horn and bone in tools and implements.

Gubs Rockshelter 7 is also known as the Satanai rock shelter, being located on the left bank of Gubs Gorge. Much research has been published about the importance of these rock shelters in helping humans to pass from the earliest Near East settlements into Eastern Europe. Far less research is available for the same area in the Mesolithic.

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by ChatGPT 3.5 (base notes only), from The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe, Quaternary International Volumes 272-273 (2012), from Wine grapes were first domesticated 11,000 years ago, gene study says, Joel Achenbach (Washington Post, 2 March 2023), and from External Links: Mesolithic Settlements of the Ukrainian Steppes: migration as sociocultural response to a changing world, Olena Smyntyna (British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2456, 93-98, January 2013, and available via ResearchGate), and Mesolithic Period (Science Direct), and Cultural resilience theory as an instrument of modelling human response to global climate change. A case study in the north-western Black Sea region: on the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary, Olena Smyntyna (Odesa I I Mechnikov National University, January 2016, and available via ResearchGate), and Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and On the Cultural Geography of the Eastern Caucasus and Southern Caspian in the Mesolithic, H A Amirkhanov (Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia, 2022;50(1):39-47), and The Palaeolithic of the Western Steppe Zone, Karol Szymczak (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023, available via Science Direct), and A problem of the bullet shaped cores: a global perspective, Karol Szymczak (University of Warsaw, 2002, and available via Academia.edu), and Caucasus Mesolithic (Indo-Europeans and Uralic Peoples), and Adaptation and some aspects of the genesis of archaeological cultures. Evidence from the Caucasian sites of Early Holocene, Hizri Amirkhanov (Preistoria Alpina - Museo Tridentino di Scienze Naturali, Vol 28, pp199-206, 1992, and available to download from MPA Solutions), and Satanai (Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database), and The Stone Age: Part 2, Mesolithic (History and Culture of Ancient Civilisations).)

c.11,200 BC

The wide-ranging Epigravettian culture is beginning to shrink back towards the Carpathians. In its wake it is leaving behind many localised variations along its former eastern stretches.

Imereti tools
The people of the Imereti had their own preferences for the types of microliths they used, along with the specific way in which they manufactured their hunting weapons

These are appearing especially in the steppe zone across the northern Black Sea region and into the North Caucasus, with the Danubian Iron Gates culture and the Crimean Shan Koba culture appearing early.

In the Caucasus mountain range into which the Imereti culture emerges there are also influences coming from the Near East and, in this case, from the Trialetian industry in the South Caucasus which itself is being fed from the Near East. The other Trialetian cultures include the Black Sea, Chokh, and Gubs.

c.9000 BC

The one grape species which is suitable for wine producing, Vitis vinifera, is first cultivated around this time by the people of two separate geographic areas. The first area is in the Caucasus region of modern Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

With conditions perfect in the South Caucasus, it was Mesolithic hunters and foragers who were amongst the very first humans to domesticate the grape

FeatureThe second is a little under a thousand kilometres away in western Asia - potentially close enough to have been inspired by the same influences (see feature link). While the grape is hermaphroditic and can reproduce itself, it takes a further three thousand years for the initial cultivation to turn into early wine production in Georgia (around 6000 BC).

c.8000 - 7100 BC

The Preboreal period sees the climate become significantly warmer (notably in the Baltics). Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bears, beavers, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south. During this period the Trialetian fades, presumably to be absorbed in part by the Chokh.

c.6400 BC

The Neolithic Farmers of the Criş / Körös culture have been heading northwards from the Middle Danube, following the Mureş and Körös rivers into Transylvania where they likely encounter Molodova-Kichkine foragers, possibly for the first time.

Map of Mesolithic Europe 8000 BC
Although culturally and technologically continuous with Palaeolithic cultures, Mesolithic cultures quickly developed diverse local adaptations for special environments, as this map shows (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Perhaps around this time, Neolithic influences from the Near East are also making themselves felt in the Caucasus. The upper (later) archaeological layers for the Chokh culture exhibit influences in the form of new tools and even the beginnings of house-building, although traditional Mesolithic tool-making continues.

Dates for the Imereti culture are far less clear, although excavated deposits do seem to point to a similar timeline for both cultures, along with those of the Black Sea and Gubs.

c.6000 BC

Having already adopted some of the tools of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B or M'lefaatian cultures in the Near East, the people of the Eastern European Imereti culture now fully embrace farming, which sees their Caucasus culture being succeeded by that of the Shulaveri-Shomu.

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