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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Seroglazovka Culture (Mesolithic / Neolithic) (Eastern Europe)
c.8800? - 5000? 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 most 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. This produced various outcomes for groups there, such as the disrupted Anetivka. To the east of this, along the northern Caspian Sea coastal area, the Seroglazovka (or Seroglazovsk) cultural label covers the Mesolithic and early Neolithic for this zone (on the Russia-Kazakhstan border.

The culture's origins remain unclear (as does its chronology), perhaps being carried over from eastern Epigravettian influences, or coming from more direct late Gravettian influences from the north-west, or following those Swiderian influences which had already produced the widespread Butovo culture across the Russian plain.

Seroglazovka sites are dispersed across the lower Volga's Caspian depression, between the junction with the River Kama, near Kazan, and the river delta where it meets the Caspian Sea. Those sites are characterised mainly by very regular microlithic crescents, segments, or lunates, along with elongated rhomboidal inserts, all of which have been produced through the pressure technique.

The culture covers the early Mesolithic period in which a swathe of localised cultures blossomed, and it continued into the early stages of the Neolithic. In addition to the Seroglazovka type site, other main sites include Kairshak V which has been dated as being active between 8716-8279 BC, and Kairshak III which has a suggested date which is no older than 6300 BC.

The Baibek site was in use in the first half of the sixth millennium BC, while Kugat IV and Kalagaitsi both have suggested dates of about 6500 BC. Some other sites have early Neolithic dates, placing them in the last few centuries of this culture.

Lithic finds differ from those of the Crimea (such as the Shan Koba) and the Black Sea coast, such as the Imeretian, but also from those of the southern Urals (presumably the Romanovsk-Ilmursin). Comparisons have been made with the Near East's Natufian, suggesting influences which must have circled the Caspian from the south.

Mesolithic stone tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by ChatGPT 3.5 (base notes only), 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), from Mesolithic in Poland. A new approach, Stefan K Kozłowski (Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 1989), and from External Links: Butovo Culture (Oxford Reference), and Maps of Neolithic & Bronze Age migrations around Europe (Eupedia), and Mesolithic Culture of Europe (PDF, Vidya Mitra Integrated E-Content Portal), and Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and Steppe Ancestry Chronology (Indo-European.eu), and The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and Mesolithic Settlements of the Ukrainian Steppes: migration as sociocultural response to a changing world, Olena Smyntyna (January 2013), and The Palaeolithic of the Western Steppe Zone, Karol Szymczak (Reference Module in Social Sciences, 2023), and Radiocarbon Chronology of the Final Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic of Crimea, Ukraine, in the Archaeological and Palaeoecological Contexts, A A Yanevich (Vita Antiqua 11, 2019, Archaeology, Museum & Monument Studies: educational and research aspects, 116-137), and A problem of the bullet shaped cores: a global perspective, Karol Szymczak (University of Warsaw, 2002, and available via Academia.edu).)

c.8800? BC

With dates which remain uncertain, the Seroglazovka culture emerges between the River Kama junction with the Volga and the latter's junction with the Caspian Sea.

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)

Its origins also remain uncertain, possibly being carried eastwards by the Epigravettian at its greatest reach, or coming from more direct late Gravettian influences from the north-west, or from Swiderian influences which have already produced the widespread Butovo culture across the Russian plain.

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.

The lower Volga homeland of the Seroglazovka
The course of the Volga is divided into four sections, starting from its source and the confluence with the Oka (the upper Volga), the middle Volga which runs to the confluence with the Kama, and then the lower Volga

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.

c.5000 BC

The Seroglazovka culture of lower Volga Eastern Europe now fades as Neolithic influences take hold in the region. Possibly these are emanating from the former Trialetian cultures of the Caucuses, a productive route into Europe for Neolithic influences, but pastoralism certainly comes from the Dnieper-Donets II people.

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