Excavations along the banks of a river in western Russia have unearthed evidence of hunter-fisher-gatherer activity spanning 6,000 years, from the Early Bronze Age to the Mesolithic.
Archaeological traces of Mesolithic activity along the Veletma River, a tributary of the River Oka, were first detected during the 1970s and 1980s. However, systematic excavations had never previously been carried out.
Five sites situated across an area of 10,000 square metres were identified by archaeologists from the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IA RAS), ahead of the construction of the M12 Moscow-Kazan highway.
The settlements have been dated to the early Mesolithic c. 8000 BC and are associated with the Butovo culture, which flourished along rivers and lakes in the upper Volga region.
A vast number of flint artefacts – including scrapers, arrowheads, and axe fragments – were recovered from all five settlements.
Large accumulations of fish and animal bones were found at three of the sites – that are believed to have been occupied seasonally – offering evidence of hunting, fishing, and food processing activities.
At the site named Malookulovskaya-3, the discovery of two artificial pits and a hearth have been interpreted as traces of a large semi-permanent dwelling.
Waste from flint production at another site, Maloye Okulovo-19, indicates that this was perhaps a centre for stone tool and weapon manufacturing.
Konstantin Gavrilov, head of the Navashinsky department of the IA RAS, said: ‘The finds will help us, on the one hand, to reconstruct the way of life of ancient people in these places and, on the other hand, to recreate the technology of stone processing.’
Artefacts dating to the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age were also recovered from the excavation site. They possibly relate to the Fatyanovo culture – communities of cattle breeders from the modern-day Balkan states of central Europe that settled across the forest zones of western Russia, flourishing from c. 2900 to 2050 BC.