Pleistocene climate change, natural environments and palaeolithic occupation of the upper Yenisei area, south-central Siberia

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Quaternary International, ISSN: 1040-6182, Vol: 80, Page: 101-130

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Chlachula, Jiří
Elsevier BV; Elsevier, Pergamon Press
Earth and Planetary Sciences; klimatické změny; spraše; vegetační pásma; paleolit; Jenisej; Climate change; loess; vegetation zones; paleolithic; Yenisei
article description
The upper Yenisei River area, near the geographical centre of Asia, is of major importance for mapping the Pleistocene climate evolution over Siberia. An extensive loess cover with a suite of buried palaeosols from the Northern Minusinsk Basin has provided one of the most complete, high resolution Late Quaternary palaeoclimatic archives currently described in north-central Asia. Coupled with the pollen evidence, the loess–palaeosol records indicate establishment of periglacial steppe–tundra during cold stadial intervals, replaced by parkland steppe and boreal forest during warm interstadial intervals. Zonal transformations of the Pleistocene environments due to marked climatic variations are reflected by the diversity of fossil faunal species, including non-analogue communities. Geoarchaeological records incorporated in the loess–palaeosol formations represent important palaeoenvironmental multi-proxy data complementing the fossil biotic and palaeopedological evidence. Abundant “pebble tool” assemblages provide explicit evidence of human occupation of the upper Yenisei area prior to the last interglacial (>130 ka BP). The morphological and technological variability of the palaeolithic industries displaying a differential degree of patination and aeolian abrasion attest to several stages of the initial peopling of the southern Siberian territory. The cultural finds associated with the Middle Pleistocene cold-adapted fossil fauna indicate that early humans were able to survive in local periglacial environments. Favourable climatic conditions during the last interglacial promoted expansion of the more advanced Mousterian (Levallois) tradition that persisted until the early last glacial stage (OIS 4). Warming during the mid-last glacial stage (OIS 3) accelerated formation of the Late Palaeolithic cultures dominated by developed blade reduction techniques. Intervals of significant climatic deterioration and onset of full glacial conditions are manifested by the absence of any archaeological record. The main focus of the current Quaternary investigations is to refine the established chronological framework and detail contextual settings of the cultural records within the larger study area.