Modern Human Colonization of the Siberian Mammoth Steppe: A View from South-Central Siberia

  • Kelly E. Graf


Was the transition from the middle Upper Paleolithic (MUP) to late Upper Paleolithic (LUP) in Siberia the result of gradual, in situ cultural change or abrupt change that resulted from multiple recolonization attempts? Past studies have primarily focused on chronology and typology in attempts to reconstruct culture histories. As a result reconstruction of hunter-gatherer ecology has been limited to broad overviews and generalizations. Questions regarding the processes of human colonization have largely remained unanswered. Explaining the differences between MUP and LUP behavioral adaptations and decision-making in the Siberian mammoth steppe is critical to achieving full understanding of the process of human colonization of the North during the late Pleistocene. This study uses both radiocarbon and lithic technological data from MUP and LUP sites located in the Enisei River valley of south-central Siberia to address the problem from a more comprehensive behavioral perspective. Chronological data demonstrate the MUP and LUP in the Enisei region were separated by a 4000-year gap straddling the LGM, while lithic data suggest MUP foragers before the LGM were making different technological provisioning decisions than LUP foragers after the LGM. Results of this study indicate that the Siberian mammoth steppe was colonized during multiple dispersal events.


Siberian Upper Paleolithic MUP LUP Mammoth steppe Last Glacial Maximum AMS Provisioning strategies 



I would like to thank the National Science Foundation (grant ASSP-0525828) for financial support of my research, and the Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Material Culture History for logistical support during my stay in St. Petersburg, Russia. I would also like to thank S. M. Tseitlin, T. Goebel, R. Elston, and Ia. Kuzmin for their ideas concerning LGM-aged Siberian human populations, especially the latter three for lively discussion regarding this transition.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kelly E. Graf
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the Study of the First AmericansTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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