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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Molodova-Kichkine Culture (Mesolithic) (Eastern Europe)
c.9500 - 4500 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.

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 the territory it encompassed (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 Dryas III-Preboreal period in the north-western Black Sea region was characterised by aridisation - a general drying out and a resultant decrease in plant life. Human groups in and around this region were part of the Epigravettian-led Molodova culture, otherwise known as the Kichkine culture. This existed in what is now Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania.

Its dates vary somewhat depending upon the source, but it is generally considered to have spanned the period between about 9500 BC to 4500 BC. These dates are approximate and may vary slightly based on different archaeological interpretations and discoveries.

In the north-western part of the Ukrainian Polissya region, it was the people of this culture who were improving their living conditions at this time. Their territory was dominated by their principal food source: reindeer. Tree cover was largely formed by pine and birch, interspersed with swampy and steppe-like areas.

Overall this area was also attractive for the hunters of the Ahrensburg and Swiderian who approached the region from the north. People of these cultures migrated here several times from the neighbouring territory of Poland, beginning around the start of the Younger Dryas (or Dryas II, which lasted about 10,900-9700 BC).

Unlike the people of the Bilolissya, the newcomers stayed here for a longer period, until the middle of the Preboreal (about 8000-7100 BC). Throughout this period they preserved their mode of life based on the collective hunting of reindeer. The flint industry of most sites displays traits from both traditions of tool processing, Bilolissya included.

It seems likely that it was their traditional hunting and gathering economy which caused the transmigration of part of the Molodova culture from the Middle Dniester to the Crimean foothills at the end of the Younger Dryas. Later, at the crossover between the Preboreal and the Boreal (around 7100 BC), the same situation can be presumed to have existed for the appearance of the Komornica and Janislavice traditions in the Ukrainian Polissya region.

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), 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 Topography of Stone Age Sites of the North-West Black Sea Region, Igor Pistruil (Odessa Archaeological Museum, published by Eminak Scientific Quarterly Journal, No 1 (29), 2020), and Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and The Palaeolithic of the Western Steppe Zone, Karol Szymczak (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023, available via Science Direct).)

c.9500 BC

Based on the available evidence, the Molodova-Kichkine culture emerges around this time (a date which may be subject to amendment if additional finds can provide firmer dating). Its eastern edges probably brush up against the territory of the Shpan people.

With origins in the Epigravettian, it exists on the western steppe territory of what is now Moldova, Ukraine, and Romania, in areas of pine and birch woods which are populated by reindeer.

Molodova canes in Ukraine
The Middle Palaeolithic and Upper Palaeolithic site of Moldova (sometimes shown as 'Molodovo') is located on the River Dniester in the Chernovtsy province of Ukraine (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 2.0 Deed)

c.9000 BC

The Khvalynian Sea which had formed above the Caspian Sea during the height of the Magdalenian culture has already separated hunter-gatherer groups which have been prospering to the east and west of the Ural Mountains range, although by 9000 BC the floodwaters have receded noticeably.

This east-west separation produces a persistent cultural frontier, with western foragers soon being more open to accepting domesticated animals from Neolithic Farmer cultures (from the late sixth millennium BC) while those to the east reject them for much longer.

By this date, what will become the countries of Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania, along with Prussia, are all being settled by hunter-gather tribes which all share the same cultural traces, with occupation coming as the ice sheets retreat northwards.

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)

These people belong to two groups, one being the regionally-dominant Swiderian which is now entering the Baltics while leaving areas of Poland empty of humans for up to three hundred years.

Groups from the early Maglemosian culture eventually intrude to rediscover abandoned Swiderian resources. Swiderian hunters also enter the Ukraine of the Molodova-Kichkine and Shpan cultures, and also the Crimea of the Shan Koba culture in their search for game.

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

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. Some of the latter eventually migrate away from this strange new people, heading for Crimea.

c.5200 BC

As the Cucuteni culture develops, during the 'Pre-Cucuteni III' / 'Tripolye A' phase, it is carried across the Dniester, erasing a cultural frontier with the Bug-Dniester people which has existed for between around six to eight hundred years. The little-known Molodova-Kichkine is probably disrupted by this to a degree.

The Cucuteni-Tripolye makes a visible mark on the forest steppe environment to the north of the Black Sea. Its people reduce the forest to create pasture and cultivated fields over wider areas, sometimes replacing older late Linear Pottery settlements such as the one at Floreşti, on a tributary of the River Seret.

The Thinker Sculpture of the Hamangia Culture
The Cucuteni-Tripolye culture developed on plains around the Carpathian Mountains - continuing into eastern Romania and south-western Ukraine, with both areas having extremely fertile soil - and the culture was next door to the Hamangia, which produced artistic marvels such as 'The Thinker', dated to around 4000 BC (click or tap on image to view full sized)

c.4500 BC

The Molodova-Kichkine Mesolithic culture fades around now in Eastern Europe, perhaps due to its people finally being convinced by those of the Cucuteni-Tripolye culture that farming is a viable method of subsistence.

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