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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Resseta Culture (Mesolithic) (Eastern Europe)
c.11,000? - 7800? BC

The crossover between the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic in Europe (and more specifically Northern Europe) took place about a millennium after the wide-ranging Magdalenian had faded. The later Swiderian culture which was so important in this specific instance was centred around modern Poland, with extensions both eastwards and southwards.

On the Eastern European fringe of the Swiderian, and of the Epigravettian which was initially so strong in Southern Europe, there appeared a number of more or less contemporaneous Epi-Palaeolithic (Late Old Stone Age) and early Mesolithic cultures. This mainly took place in the steppe zone across the northern Black Sea region, but activity was also taking place between the Vistula and the Ural mountains.

The Resseta (or Ressetian) culture emerged alongside its sister Ienevo culture in the upper Volga basin in eastern areas of European Russia. At that time a vast swathe of this territory was being hunted by people of the newly-emergent Swiderian culture, who would go on to produce the regionally-dominant Mesolithic Butovo culture.

The upper Volga region is characterised by a limited number of archaeological sources, however. Natural conditions here at the boundary of the Pleistocene and Holocene around 8300 BC failed to make it possible to maintain the integrity of archaeology or organic remains. Exceptions include rare Mesolithic monuments which are associated with ancient alluvial sedimentation, usually lake, river, or peat deposits.

For the remaining sites, it is almost exclusively stone artefacts which provide the only source of information. From these it is often difficult to properly categorise finds to match specific cultures and periods. This has contributed in part to the somewhat low amount of specific knowledge about very early Mesolithic life here in one of the most intensively-studied regions of Russia.

Theories abound regarding the eventual break-up of the dominant Butovo culture across large areas of its territory. One particularly reasonable idea by L V Koltsov suggests that it was the emergence of population groups of the Ienevo and Resseta cultures which were initially responsible.

They may have arrived from the other side of the Urals (late Afontova Gora people, possibly), if they were not originally Butovo people themselves, and they may even have been openly hostile to people of the Butovo.

The Ienevo and Resseta cultures have been considered to be the earliest archaeological cultures to be specific to the upper Volga region. While their origins are unclear, an attempt has been made to connect then to Gravettian finds in the region, although this has not found universal favour. That would give them a date of emergence during the late Valdai glaciation (principally of the Ural Mountains) which ended around 11,000 BC.

Instead, more recent and intensive study of tools suggests they are not connected either to the Gravettian or the Magdalenian. Some local Palaeolithic industries are fundamentally similar though, principally those of the Bromme and Ahrensburg, in opposition to the Swiderian heritage of the Butovo. Ultimately though, the people of the Ienevo and Resseta were subsequently displaced or assimilated by the far more numerous Butovo people.

Mesolithic stone tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from An Ecological Approach to the Periodization of the Final Palaeolithic and Early Mesolithic in the Upper Volga Basin, Sergey N Lisitsyn (Russian Academy of Sciences, 2017, in Russian), from Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Settlement of the European North: Possible Linguistic Implications, Christian Carpelan, from The Magdalenian Settlement of Europe, Quaternary International Volumes 272-273 (2012), and from External Links: Maps of Neolithic & Bronze Age migrations around Europe (Eupedia), and Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and North-Eastern Technocomplex (Indo-Europeans and Uralic Peoples), and Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and Steppe Ancestry Chronology (Indo-European.eu), and The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and Late Quaternary glaciation of the northern Urals: a review and new observations (Boreas, Vol 47 Issue 2, Wiley Online Library, Apr 2018).)

c.11,000? BC

The Mesolithic Resseta culture most likely emerges around or after this point in time, alongside the similarly new Ienevo culture in the upper Volga basin of eastern European Russia. A vast swathe of this territory is dominated by people of the Swiderian culture.

Resseta culture bone spear tip
From the archaeological site of Minino 2 in the upper Volga region came this bone spear tip with flinty insertions, dating to the Resseta culture's crossover point between the final Palaeolithic and the early Mesolithic

The new groups may have arrived from the other side of the Ural mountain range where the Afontova Gora has dominated, or they are Swiderian people themselves who have picked up influences from beyond the Urals or, most likely, they are descended from Ahrensburg traditions.

c.9600 - 9500 BC

The Stanovoje 4 camp site which has had to be abandoned due to post-glacial flooding is now re-inhabited by people of the Ienevo culture, a group which is possibly later absorbed by the now-emergent Butovo people. Another rise in lake levels drives them away within a century and the site remains flooded until about 8500 BC.

Around 9500 BC the Yangelka culture emerges on the eastern side of the southern Ural mountain region. Its direct neighbour to the west, on the other side of the Ural mountain range, is the Romanovsk-Ilmursin culture. These people practice the same pressure flaking technique, which suggests a similar origin for its people, and also those of the Butovo.

Yangelka culural territory in Russia
Yangelka cultural territory on the eastern side of the southern Urals mountain range, not far from the modern border with Kazakhstan

c.9000 - 8300 BC

The oldest Butovo-site artefacts are dated to this period, during the rise in temperatures at the end of the Younger Dryas period and up to the start of the Preboreal period.

c.8000 BC

The Preboreal period between about 8000-7100 BC sees the climate become significantly warmer in the Baltics and other northern regions. Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bear, beaver, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south.

c.7100 BC

The Boreal period (until about 5800 BC) sees the climate continue to warm and become drier. Pine forests decrease, allowing deciduous trees to gain a firmer foothold and become prevalent. The animal population thrives, with red deer, roe deer, and hare increasing considerably.

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.7000? BC

The early Mesolithic Resseta culture of Eastern Europe does not survive the crossover between Preboreal and Boreal periods. Its people are apparently absorbed into the still-thriving Butovo culture.

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