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Far East Kingdoms

Early Cultures


Sumnaginsk Culture (Epi-Palaeolithic / Mesolithic) (Siberia)
c.10,500 - 6000 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. Improving conditions from about 13,000 BC saw a blossoming of human occupation not only here but across Northern Europe too.

On the Eastern European fringe of the latter's advances there appeared a number of more or less contemporaneous Epi-Palaeolithic and early Mesolithic cultures. This was also true of Siberia, with smaller, localised archaeological cultures appearing - such as the Yangelka near the Urals which in time also strongly influenced contemporary early Neolithic flint-knapping traditions in the Central Asian Turanian lowland area (later home to the kingdom of Turan).

A relatively short time prior to the emergence of the Yangelka, dated archaeological finds in Yakutia, eastern Siberia, serve to confirm theories about the migration of Siberian hunters into the Americas. Of great interest to scientists is a Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) settlement in the lower reaches of the River Aldan. The settlement dates back to 12,000-10,000 BC, and it contains finds which prove that these Ancient Palaeo-Siberians were hunting bison, mammoth, and wild horses.

It was from this region that the Sumnaginsk (or Sumnagin) culture emerged, named after the type settlement in the upper reaches of the Aldan. They succeeded the Dyuktai (or Duiktai) Palaeolithic hunting tradition with new, Mesolithic advances in stone technology.

By about 8000 BC their influence had spread throughout the territory. They may also have penetrated Alaska by 5000 BC according to Yuri Machanov, following the disappearance of their culture in its home territory. If accurate, this could confirm a large-scale migration into the Americas.

The culture's main lithic core reduction technique is illustrated by the presence of large amounts of sub-conical and sub-prismatic cores for knife-like blades. Sites of a similar character are also noted far to the north, at the mouth of the River Indigirka.

Radiocarbon dates which have been obtained for the Sumnaginsk sites cover the majority of this culture's existence, and all dates come with a plus or minus figure of a century. Ust' Timpton ('Layer 5b') sits at about 8740 BC, 'Layer 5a' (possibly) is about 7400 BC, 'Layer 4b' is about 7000 BC, and 'Layer 4a' is about 5000 BC. The culture is claimed to have faded around 6000 BC, so the latter date is a curious relic of its passing.

Similar dates are found at another major site, that of 'Bielkatchi I', which cover a period of between 7190 BC ('Layer 27', the lowermost, earliest layer) and 3990 BC ('Layer 8', the uppermost or most recent layer). The latter date supports continued occupation long after the culture had been superseded by the Syalakhsk, but apparently without much of its influence being felt.

Homo Neanderthalis

(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), from Once Upon the Permafrost, Susan Alexandra Crate (University of Arizona Press, 2021/2022), and from External Links: 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 The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe (Nature 2016), and A problem of the bullet shaped cores: a global perspective, Karol Szymczak (University of Warsaw, 2002, and available via Academia.edu), and Soviet Life (Issues 7-12, available via Google Books).)

c.10,500 BC

The Sumnaginsk culture emerges around Yakutia in eastern Siberia to replace the Dyuktai hunting tradtion of the Siberian Palaeolithic. The new culture is initially focussed around a Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) settlement in the lower reaches of the River Aldan, but it quickly expands outwards within a millennium.

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

c.8000 - 7100 BC

The Preboreal period sees the climate become significantly warmer in the north in general, as highlighted by changes in the Baltics. Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bear, beaver, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south.

More southerly regions are also positively affected and, by the start of this period, the Sumnaginsk has become widespread across Siberia, reaching into the Bering land bridge which still exists to connect to the Americas.

FeatureThe changing climate impacts harshly upon a Siberian mammoth population which is already struggling. The last mainland Siberian groups disappear around 8000 BC with human hunters helping them on their way (see feature link). Island populations persist until about 3600 BC.

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)

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 hare increasing considerably, but the people of the successful Sumnaginsk soon come face-to-face with new arrivals in the region.

c.6000 BC

The Sumnaginsk culture fades in its Siberian home territory, forced out by the Syalakhsk culture. Perhaps its people migrate wholesale into the Americas of the Archaic Period, as is potentially shown by finds in Alaska. Neo-Siberians and Tungusic peoples subsequently dominate Siberia.

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