History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Sursko-Dnieper Culture (Mesolithic) (Eastern Europe)
c.10,000 - 5000? 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 Dryas III-Preboreal period in the northern Black Sea region was characterised by aridisation - a general drying out and a resultant decrease in plant life. Within this background the Sursko-Dnieper culture emerged in today's Ukraine and southern Russia alongside other local cultures such as the Shpan.

Neolithic cultures in Ukraine have long been the subject of archaeological research. The prevailing opinion is that some of them, such as the Bug-Dniester, developed out of the local Mesolithic basis under the influence of the Criş culture of Neolithic Farmers whereas others, such as the Sursko-Dnieper, may have developed under the influence of Neolithic migrants from the Near East. That's not to say that it did not also have the founding influences of the Epigravettian which informed so many other cultures in the Pontic steppe area.

It has equally been stated that this culture has no equal in Mesolithic Ukraine in terms of the high standard of manufacture of its bone tools and the sheer variety of them. There is a suspicion that this manufacture may have developed locally out of the Dnieper variant of the Mesolithic's Kukrek culture.

Its pencil-like (bullet-shaped) lithic cores have been noted only in the Chokh culture of the early Caucasus, especially in 'Layer 3' of the Chokh type site. These appear to be dated to a point at the height of the local Mesolithic. Farther north, on the Kuban lowland, the contemporary Shan Koba culture could be found, with the Murzak-Koba culture flourishing in Crimea.

Precise start and finish dates for the Sursko-Dnieper can vary somewhat depending upon different archaeological interpretations and regional variations. However, it is generally accepted to have emerged around 10,000 BC and lasted until approximately 5000 BC, transitioning into the Neolithic period.

Mesolithic stone tools

(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), and from External Links: A problem of the bullet shaped cores: a global perspective, Karol Szymczak (University of Warsaw, 2002, and available via Academia.edu), and 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 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 (British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 2456, 93-98, January 2013, and available via ResearchGate), and Mesolithic Period (Science Direct), and Animal remains from Neolithic settlements of the Middle Dnieper area (Ukraine), Oleksandr Kovalchuk and others (International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 28(3), 2018, and available via ResearchGate).)

c.10,000 BC

The Mesolithic Sursko-Dnieper culture emerges in areas of central Ukraine and southern Russia, alongside many others such as the Shpan, and potentially with initial influences from the wide-ranging Epigravettian.

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)

The Sursko-Dnieper is suspected to have developed under the influence of Neolithic migrants - most probably of the Natufian culture - who have mostly likely trickled along the Black Sea shoreline to avoid the Caucasus mountains.

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.

c.7100 - 5800 BC

The Boreal period 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 hares increasing considerably.

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.

Perhaps around this time, Neolithic influences from the Near East are also making themselves felt in the Caucasus (and may long have done so in the Sursko-Dnieper). 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.

c.6000 BC

Groups from the Butovo to the north and east and the Kunda to the north have already migrated southwards to the plains on the eastern side of the River Dnieper to form the Dnieper-Donets I culture.

River Dnieper (Ukraine section)
The River Dnieper proved to be highly important in the Mesolithic and Neolithic forager cultures of Ukraine, right down to the Chalcolithic Yamnaya horizon which almost emptied the region for a time

c.5800 BC

The Atlantic period which now begins is characterised by a climate which is warmer than that of the present day. New species migrate into the Baltic region, including Baltic aurochs and wild boar, which inhabit forests of broad-leaved trees. Water chestnuts grow in the many lakes, and the bountiful life draws hunter-gatherers into the area.

c.5000 BC

The Eastern European Sursko-Dnieper Mesolithic culture now fades, largely superseded by more advanced Neolithic forager cultures such as the Dnieper-Donets II.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.