Uncharted territory

Kelly E. Graf

This dissertation presents the results of research in south-central Siberia directed at understanding late Pleistocene human dispersals in the Siberian mammoth-steppe. The project focuses on developing a reliable chronology for the Enisei region of south-central Siberia and characterizing the region's middle Upper Paleolithic (MUP) and late Upper Paleolithic (LUP) complexes in terms of technological organization, provisioning, and land-use strategies.;During the late Upper Pleistocene Siberia was characterized by a rich steppe-tundra mosaic environment often termed the mammoth-steppe; however, during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) climatic conditions deteriorated, producing a harsh, wind-swept landscape with diminished floral and faunal populations. Modern humans utilizing MUP technologies had been living in the region for about 10,000 years before the LGM. These hunter-gatherers utilized local lithic resources, practiced expedient technologies, and organized mobility logistically. During the LGM, between about 24,000-21,000 years ago, human populations dwindled with the rest of the mammoth-steppe fauna. Whether humans actually migrated south or east to more temperate biomes or were faced with drasticin-situ demographic decline is not known. We do know, however, that after the LGM humans appear to have repopulated the region. LUP sites exhibit a different set of adaptive strategies, producing formal and highly standardized, risk-reducing technologies, and organizing mobility residentially. Possibly these strategies allowed LUP foragers to rapidly recolonize southern Siberia and eventually disperse further north during the Late Glacial into the subarctic and arctic.

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