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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Early Siberia / North Asia

The great swathe of territory which is Siberia (Sibir to modern Russians) is a vast eastern region of today's Russian state. It is one which was gained during Russia's imperial expansion of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries AD. Effectively it forms North Asia in contrast to the neighbouring remainder of Asia in the form of its regional divides of Central Asia, East Asia, South-East Asia, South Asia, and West Asia (much better known as the Near East).

North Asia extends from the Ural Mountains in the west, with this mountain range forming the divider with Europe, to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and southwards from the Arctic Ocean to the hills of northern-central Kazakhstan and the borders of Mongolia and China.

FeatureThe system which has evolved to catalogue the various archaeological expressions of human progress is one which involves cultures. For well over a century, archaeological cultures have remained the framework for global prehistory. The earliest cultures which emerge from Africa and the Near East are perhaps the easiest to catalogue, right up until human expansion reaches the Americas. The task of cataloguing that vast range of human cultures is covered in the related feature (see link, right).

The beginnings of human history in Siberia date back to the late Pleistocene, between 40,000 to 25,000 years ago, which includes the last full interglacial period and the most recent glaciation. The latter was followed by the interglacial period which still persists today.

In Europe the Aurignacian culture of the Upper Palaeolithic coincided with that last glaciation, which was much more severe there than in North Asia. Siberia below the latitude of 60 N was ice-free (although not without associated freshwater flooding-related problems), and therefore so also was Early China and Early Japan.

IndexFrom this point in time various new cultures emerged, some replacing earlier ones. Others were expressions of human expansion, not least into the Americas which largely took place through Siberia and over the temporary Bering land bridge (see the 'Prehistoric World' index for information on pre-modern human Earth, via the link on the right).

The origins of 'Asia' as a name appear to lay in a confederacy in western Anatolia known as Assuwa or Assua (Arzawa). Certainly by about 1400-1300 BC this confederacy had already been formed by a number of regional minor states which, collectively, were allied to the Hittite empire which dominated Anatolia at that time. The city of Troy (or Wilusa) was also a member of this confederacy.

FeatureHowever, a far older word could be the basis of the 'Asia' name. This option relates to the Indo-Europeans and their spread from the Pontic-Caspian steppe to dominate Central Asia (see the feature link, right, for a fuller exploration of this theory).

Homo Neanderthalis

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from A Genetic Signal of Central European Celtic Ancestry, David K Faux, from Investigating Archaeological Cultures: Material Culture, Variability, and Transmission, Benjamin W Roberts & Marc Vander Linden (Eds), and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)


King list Palaeolithic Siberia
(c.40,000 - 9000 BC)

Upper Palaeolithic Siberia in Asia's northern extremes was cold and remote, and life in the earliest days of modern human expansion would have been tough.

King list Sumnaginsk Culture
(c.10,500 - 6000 BC)

This culture succeeded the Dyuktai Palaeolithic hunting tradition with new, Mesolithic advances in stone technology.

King list Neo-Siberian Culture
(c.9000 - 2000 BC)

A fresh band of East Asians headed north from about 9000 BC to give rise to a Tungusic group which has been dubbed the Neo-Siberians.

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