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European Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Tash-Air Culture (Mesolithic / Neolithic Foragers) (Eastern Europe)
c.10,000 - 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 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 territory (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.

Having emerged in the Mesolithic, two cultures in particular are known to have survived into the early centuries of the Atlantic period (sometimes referred to in modern Eastern European sources as 'Atlantikum', and dating from 6000 BC, effectively the start of the Neolithic). Those cultures are the Olexiivka, which was focussed on the plains of Crimea, and the Tash-Air in mountainous Crimea.

The coexistence of several archaeological cultures in Epi-Palaeolithic and Mesolithic Crimea, sometimes on the same territory - particularly in 'Mountain' Crimea - reflects complicated ethno-cultural processes. Some of this region's cultures have numerous stable sites, and there were many of them, all existing side-by-side. They included the Shan Koba, Murzak-Koba, and Tash-Air in the mountainous regions, and the Kukrek and Olexiivka cultures of plains Crimea.

Both the Olexiivka and the Tash-Air transitioned from Mesolithic forager cultures to early Neolithic forager groups before eventually giving way to true Neolithic farming cultures. The Swiderian and Shpan cultures are represented by only a few sites. These two instead provide evidence of periodical migrations into Crimea by groups of northern Ukrainian hunters (of the Swiderian) or steppe hunters of southern Ukraine (of the Shpan).

Nevertheless, the Tash-Air tribes continued their way of life during a cool and arid phase after 5500 BC. Precise start and finish dates can vary for the culture depending upon archaeological evidence and interpretations, but the dates given are generally accepted.

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 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 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 Early Mesolithic (Indo-European.eu), and Late glacial and Holocene vegetational and climate changes, Natalia P Gerasimenko (Lead Author, Quaternary International Volume 632, 20 September 2022, available via Science Direct).)

c.10,000 BC

Crimea is quickly becoming a patchwork of co-existing cultures. Some emerge on plains Crimea, such as the Kukrek and Olexiivka, while others are focussed on mountain Crimea of the south, including the Shan Koba, the newly-emergent Tash-Air, and a latecomer in the Murzak-Koba. The Kizil-Koba (I) culture soon emerges in the foothills of eastern Crimea.

Cave city beneath Tash-Air in Crimea
The cave town of Kachi-Kalyon is a huge rocky area with three natural grottos and with clefts which run across it to form a cross on the bow of this gigantic ship-shaped opening, beneath the huge natural canopy called Tash-Air

c.9000 BC

Groups from the early Maglemosian culture eventually intrude into areas of Poland 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.

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.

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)

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 and Tash-Air territories in Crimea.

c.5000 BC

The Tash-Air type site in Crimea exhibits its last influences around now, suggesting that it has most definitively now been succeeded by the Kukrek culture.

In nearby Eastern Europe the relatively unknown Bilolissya has already long since faded, while the Tsarinka-Rogalik may only just have turned into the widely-dominant Grebeniki culture.

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