Chapter II: Lower Paleolithic in Eurasia

[Lecture 1 delivered on 24 June 1991]


Lower Paleolithic sites

As per Alexeev, three ancient sites containing artifacts have been found in southern Siberia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. These lower paleolithic sites are respectively: Filimoshki, Satani-Dar, and Azykh.

Filimoshki is located in the Zeia River Valley in Southern Siberia near the present day village of Filimoshki. The Zeia and Buria are the left tributaries of the Amur River. Findings at Filimoshki were first published in the early 1970's by the Siberian expert, Aleksei Okladnikov with a recent publication in 1977 by Siberian archaeologist, Anatoly Derevyanko (1). No human remains were discovered.

The excavation at Filimoshki was small. Dating of the artifacts is inconclusive; they were collected on the surface and no sequencing was conducted. Dating is based solely on tool typology. The surficial features of these stone tools are very rough. A few of the tools have flakes. Some archaeologists believe these "tools" are of natural origin because similar formations are found in many river beds. Okladnikov, however, sees an artificial origin; he believes these rough rocks are man- made stone tools.

Satani-Dar is located in the Aragats Mountains of Armenia, northwest of Yerevan and references Satan's mound in the Armenian language. The site is approximately 6-8 sq. km; artifacts collected on the surface consist of hand axes and are published in two volumes by Armenian scholars (2). No human remains were discovered.

The hand axes are very well made so that by typology the tools fall into two groups: group one is similar to Acheulian hand axes of Europe (Europe's oldest hand axes) and group two is a miniature version of the first. However, because a stratigraphy was not analyzed this cannot be confirmed. This site could be a productive area for further excavation but because the area is so large it is difficult to decide where excavations should be conducted. Thus to continue archaeological research here would take many years of expensive work. Currently, the area is too politically unstable to support extensive excavations.

Azykh archaeological site is located in Karabagh, the Armenian populated and now seceded autonomous district of Azerbaijan. The site is located in a mountainous area in the southwestern corner of Azerbaidjan. Azykh is a cave site excavated in the early 1960's by Mamedali Guseinov (3), an Azerbaijan archaeologist. Stratigraphy for the site was recorded and this site is considered to be the most ancient site in Transcaucasia. The lowest two levels reveal the first stages of Lower Paleolithic with chipping tools and choppers typical of many places in Africa and East Asia. The fifth layer from the bottom dates to the middle of the last stage of Acheulian and reveals bones of a lower jaw; the most ancient man in Europe. Phylogenetic morphology reveals many primitive features. Excavators thus consider it to be a special genus of ancient man and have labeled it Azykhanthropus; however, a recent study published in 1986 by Azerbaijan paleoanthropologist Rabiia Kasimova (4) concludes that this find should not be treated as a special genus. Rather, it is more likely an early form of Neandertal similar to other Neandertal remains in Europe. Kasimova considers the find to be an early form of Homo sapiens neandertalensis. Since the secession of Karabagh from Azerbaijan in 1988, the area is extremely politically unstable and no further research is possible.



The Lower Paleolithic sites at Filimoshki (Siberia), Satani-Dar (Armenia), and Azykh (Azerbaijan) are the oldest sites containing artifacts found to date in Eurasia. Note that these sites are along the southern border of the country. Other Lower Paleolithic remains have been found in Eastern Asia, India, and Israel. Archaeological work in Mongolia in the last decade reveals sites with remains from Middle Paleolithic times but nowhere in Mongolia has a definite Lower Paleolithic layer been found.


Notes for Chapter II

[Please note that for this lecture I was not present in class. I wish to thank Sean Harriman for sharing his notes with me]

1. I find 2 publications by A.P. Derevianko on the Amur River Valley. One of the publications is coauthored with A.P. Okladnikov.

1970. "V strane trekh solnts; rasskazy arkheologa o drevnostiakh Priamur'ia" by A.P. Derevianko; published [Khabarovsk] Khabarovskoe knizhnoe izd-vo.

1977. "Gromatukhinskaia kul'tura" by A.P. Okladnikov and A.P. Derevianko; published in Novosibirsk: Nauka.

2. Satani-Dar was excavated in 1945-1949 by S.A. Sardarian, S.N. Zamiatnin, and M.Z. Panichkina as per the "Great Soviet Encyclopedia". Publication on the site is by M.Z. Panichkina:

1950.   "Paleolit Armenii" by M.Z. Panichkina; published in Leningrad.

3. This publication by Guseinov, M.M. (Mamedali Murad) on Azykh Cave is entitled:

n.d.    "Azykh Magharasy = The Azykh Cave"; published in Baku, Azerbaidjan: Akademiia Nauk Azerbaidzhanskoi SSR, Institut Istorii.

Guseinov labels the bones of a jaw from Azih as Azihanthropus; Kasimova (1986) relabels the jawbone early Neandertal i.e. Homo sapiens neandertalensis. Most scholars now relate the jawbone to Neandertal.

4. The publication by Kasimova, R.M.M.K. (Rabiia Mamed Mekhti Kizy) is entitled:

1986.   "Pervaia naknodka samogo drevnego peshchernogo cheloveka na territorii SSSR: Azerbaidzhanskaia SSR, Azykh" and is published in Baku:Elm.