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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Kizil-Koba (I) Culture (Mesolithic) (Crimea)
c.9000 - 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 major Palaeolithic cultures.

It was this window of cultural formation into which the Shan Koba culture had already appeared, during the Epi-Palaeolithic (the late Palaeolithic) as it was transitioning into the early Mesolithic, around 13,000 BC. It was located in the Crimean part of the Black Sea steppe zone, one of the earliest specifically Eastern European cultures (alongside the Iron Gates).

The Kizil-Koba I culture, also known as the 'Red Cave' culture, Kyzyl-Kobyn, or Kizilkoba, represents a later divergence in Crimea, a small region which was prone to such divergences. Appearing at the start of the Mesolithic, it is not to be confused with the Iron Age Kizil-Koba (II) culture, or the very similar and contemporary Murzak-Koba culture which appeared as this one was fading.

The culture is named after the Kizil-Koba cave, a location in which significant archaeological findings have been made. The environment in Crimea at this time was highly beneficial for humans with hunters from the wider Swiderian culture also making visits during harsher times in the north. The culture spread across various parts of Crimea, with remaining evidence of settlements, burial sites, and artefacts being found across the peninsula.

Archaeological excavations have revealed clusters of settlements along river valleys and coastal areas, indicating that early inhabitants were engaged both in fishing and farming activities. This had led to some experts labelling it as the earliest Neolithic culture on the peninsula.

Kizil-Koba I settlements consisted of semi-subterranean dwellings which were constructed of stone and wood. These structures were typically circular or oval in shape, with stone walls and roofs likely covered with thatch or branches. Some settlements were strategically situated near water sources, facilitating access to fresh water for domestic use and irrigation.

The population was predominantly engaged in a subsistence economy which was based on hunting, fishing, gathering, and very early forms of agriculture. They exploited the diverse natural resources of the region, including wild animals, fish from the Black Sea, and various edible plants.

Evidence also suggests that forms of agriculture were also being practised, cultivating crops such as wheat, barley, and legumes. The people here likely utilised simple farming techniques, such as manual cultivation using stone tools, and may have engaged in rudimentary forms of crop rotation to maintain soil fertility.

Mesolithic stone tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by ChatGPT 3.5 (dates and base notes only), from The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe, Quaternary International Volumes 272-273 (2012), from The Kizil-Koba Culture of the Crimea, J F Hoffecker & M V Anikovich (The Early Upper Paleolithic beyond Western Europe, Chapter 7, pp 97-117, University of California Press, 2006), from Early Upper Paleolithic in Eastern Europe and implications for the dispersal of modern humans, M V Anikovich, A A Sinitsyn, J F Hoffecker, V T Holliday, V V Popov, S N Lisitsyn, & S L Forman (Science, 315(5809), 223-226, 2007), and from External Links: The Palaeolithic of the Western Steppe Zone, Karol Szymczak (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023, available via Science Direct), and Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and Radiocarbon Chronology of the Final Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic of Crimea, A A Yanevich (Vita Antiqua 11, 2019, Archaeology, Museum & Monument Studies: educational and research aspects), and The Epigravettian chronology and the human population of eastern Central Europe during MIS2, György Lengyel (Lead Author, Quaternary Science Reviews Volume 271, 1 November 2021, available via Science Direct).)

c.9000 BC

The Kizil Koba (I) culture emerges in Crimea, existing alongside the Shan Koba and Tash-Air while other cultures emerge on the nearby Ukrainian steppe, such as the Bilolissya.

The Red Cave of the Kizil-Koba (I) culture in Crimea
The Kizil-Koba I culture is primarily associated with the Kizil-Koba cave, but evidence of similar cultural practices and material remains have been found in other sites across Crimea and adjacent regions

Artefacts which have been recovered from Kizil-Koba I sites include stone tools such as blades, scrapers, and arrowheads, as well as bone implements and pottery vessels.

Burial sites reveal diverse practices which include both primary and secondary burials. Graves are often located within or near settlements and are sometimes marked with stone structures or mounds. Grave goods from these burials provide clues about social organisation, trade networks, and symbolic beliefs.

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.

Preboreal hunting lands in Europe
The Preboreal period is a formative stage of the early Holocene which lasted between 9000-4000 BC, one in which the post-glacial world of Northern Europe was warming to temperatures which were very close to those of the twentieth century


The Tsarinka-Rogalik tradition or culture emerges in the early Mesolithic period (potentially as part of the Shan Koba), although no direct dates are currently available. The Dryas III-Preboreal period in this region above the Black Sea is characterised by aridisation - a general drying out and a resultant decrease in plant life.

Human groups in the centre of this region, part of the Anetivka late Palaeolithic flint-knapping technology, have been broken up by the changes, forced to disperse to more habitable locations which may also include Shan Koba territory in Crimea.

The people of the Tsarinka are able to move in to make the most of the extra hunting space (perhaps as the less numerous people of the Bilolissya have already done so), while the highly-mobile Anetivka people are themselves quickly developing.

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)

c.6000 BC

The Kizil-Koba (I) culture now fades out in Crimea, although the more widespread Shan Koba continues for a few more centuries. Both are succeeded by the Kukrek culture, while the very similar Tsarinka-Rogalik continues for another millennium.

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