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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Neo-Siberian Culture (Mesolithic / Neolithic) (Siberia)
c.9000 - 2000 BC

Cold and remote Siberia in the northern extremes of Asia during the Siberian Palaeolithic provided tough conditions for habitation by the earliest modern human immigrants into the region. Even so, the earliest habitation of the region seems to have taken place around 40,000 BC - and perhaps even a little earlier - by a hardy and only recently uncovered genetically-distinct group of humans who have been dubbed the Ancient North Siberians.

It was East Asians who were largely responsible for the migration into the Americas, but they also mixed with other descendants of Ancient North Siberians to give rise to another group, known as Ancient Palaeo-Siberians, who went on to generally supplant the existing Ancient North Siberians.

That wave of migrating hunter-gatherers was also supplanted in time, by another band of East Asians which headed north from about 9000-8000 BC to give rise to a group which has been dubbed the Neo-Siberians. This gradual influx of largely Tungusic peoples lasted at least until 2000 BC, supplying an end date for the Neo-Siberian period.

The vast majority of the genetic makeup of present-day Siberians comes from this last push. It is also the reason that there is no very close connection between contemporary - largely Tungusic - Siberians and Native Americans. The Palaeo-Siberian populations became restricted to north-eastern Siberia, as represented by the fading of the Sumnaginsk culture and an individual from Ol'skaya by the name of Magadan (circa 1000 BC), who closely resembles present-day Koryaks and Itelmens.

The Neolithic did not arrive in Siberia at the start of this period. Instead it was dominated by a Mesolithic phase, a pre-pottery period which has been much more heavily researched on the European side of the Urals.

Its precise definitions are still little-known and rather vague in Siberia, where the region seems to have undergone a shift towards producing sedentary settlements even without the arrival of the Near East's Neolithic Farmer knowledge and technology. The Siberian Neolithic is generally agreed to start around the 6000 BC point, even without farming practices having arrived. Instead this local advance is seemingly due to the ending of a climatic cooling spell.

Kel'teminar tools

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from External Links: Ancient DNA Links Native Americans With Europe, Michael Balter (Science, 25 Oct 2013: Vol 342, Issue 6157, pp409-410), and The Mal'ta - Buret' venuses and culture in Siberia (Don's Maps), and A giant Siberian lake during the last glacial, and From Siberia to the Arctic and the Americas, Douglas Wallace (DNA Learning Center), and Tracking the First Americans, Glenn Hodges (National Geographic), and Ancient Siberia was home to previously unknown humans (The Guardian), and The population history of northeastern Siberia since the Pleistocene (Nature), and Indo-Europeans and Uralic Peoples, and The world's oldest-known promontory fort, Henny Piezonka et al (Antiquity Vol 97, Issue 396, and available online via Cambridge University Press, 2023).)

c.9000 BC

Those East Asians who are largely responsible for the migration into the Americas which forms the Palaeo-Indians have also intermixed with ancient Siberian groups to give rise to the Ancient Palaeo-Siberians.

Siberian mammoth bones
Mammoth populations declined at the end of the Late Pleistocene, but the last groups on mainland Siberia survived until about 8000 BC, making them part of the ecosystem of Sumnaginsk hunters

Now, following the rise of the Sumnaginsk culture, another band of East Asians heads north to supplant that Palaeo group and give rise to the Neo-Siberians. The vast majority of the genetic makeup of present-day Siberians comes from this last push.

c.6000 BC

The fortified settlement site of Amnya is constructed around this point in time, in western Siberia (see The world's oldest-known promontory fort in the sources for the full report). Several fortified sites are suddenly springing up across the taiga (and at least 'several', although modern archaeology has barely begun to explore many of them).

These structures occur not too long after similar structures are first built in the Balkans, although these are definitively European Neolithic Farmer occupations. Other hunter-gatherer structures of the Amnya type do tend to spring up around the world but primarily on coastal sites, so these inland fortified settlements are remarkable.

Amnya hunter-gatherer fortified site, Siberia
The settlement site and archaeological Amnya I layer in Siberia, showing the depression left by a pit house in this remarkable fortified site

The most likely reason is the abundance of harvestable fish, aquatic birds, forest fowl, and large game such as elk and reindeer. Stocks are easily built up and the population is swiftly expanding, so storage sites have to be protected. Starting with the Amnya I layer, the site remains inhabited into the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) in the later, Amnya II deposits.

It is probably not coincidental that this change in behaviour in Siberia comes at the end of the '8.2 kiloyear event', a recognised climatic cooling event which persists for two hundred years and, when it relents around 6000 BC, provides a climatic bounce-back which triggers the start of the Pottery Neolithic in the Near East.

c.3500 BC

Evidence collected from the Ulchi suggests an initial expansion outwards of Tungusic-speakers from the River Amur region by this time, and possible predating it by a century or two. The Tungusic language can be grouped together with the origins of Turkic and Mongolian under the Altaic banner, although significant differences are introduced along the way.

Map of East Asia and Siberia around 3500 BC
Tungusic migration from around the River Amur towards Lake Baikal and Siberia seems to have begun around 3500 BC, perhaps tentatively at first, and continuing over at least the next two or three millennia (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.2000 BC

Tungusic-speakers gradually expand towards the west and north-west of the River Amur. Tribes eventually reach Lake Baikal and follow its river system to the River Yenisei which exits into the Kara Sea.

In doing so they largely displace or absorb the languages of the earliest Siberians, the Palaeo-Siberians, as part of the East Asian Neo-Siberian migratory movement into the region. Tungusic peoples form a majority population of today's Siberia, alongside groups of Uralic-speakers.

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