Overarching period: Mesolithic, 15,000 - 4,500 BP
Carbon dating: 11,143 - 10,591 BP
Locations:Vasilyevka - 48.30° North, 35.14° East
Site location country: Ukraine
mtDNA haplogroups: U
Y haplogroups: R1, I
The European Mesolithic:
The Mesolithic in Europe, or the Eneolithic as it is referred to in Eastern Europe was a period of great transitions both in terms of climate and of human geography. It represented a time between the end of the last Ice Age, known as the Paleolithic, around 11,600 years ago and the arrival of farming cultures from the Middle East some 9,000 years ago . The end of the Paleolithic, marked the beginning of the Holocene, a period of warmer temperatures that have lasted until the present day. Temperatures rose rapidly from 11,600 years ago, potentially up to pre-industrial levels by 9,000 years ago . All of this melting ice meant that the oceans swelled, and sea levels rose some 60 meters . The land bridge that once connected North America to Asia disappeared, and the English Channel was formed over land where once hunter-gatherers could freely walk between what is now England and France.
The people of the Mesolithic were the direct descendants of Upper Paleolithic populations and maintained a hunter-gatherer way of life. Not only did these societies have to cope with large shifts in sea levels but also rapidly expanding forests . Where once there was open tundra, there were now vast tracts of woodland, covering large parts of Europe. The transition to forest environments brought major changes in available game, from mammoth, steppe bison, and reindeer to elk, beaver, and bear . The people living in these environments began forming larger groups and without the open plains of the Paleolithic to wander, they began constructing permanent buildings [6-7].
Archaeological data shows that these changing environments meant less mobility and the appearance of more regional cultures, compared with the widely distributed and uniform cultures of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers . Unique artifacts such as the famous antler masks of the Star Carr site began to appear . The technology of these late hunter-gatherers remained focused on stone tools formed into blades and points used for hunting game, working hides, and carving wood.
This individual from Vasilyevka:
The five individuals in this sample came from the Vasilyevka 3 archaeological site in present-day Eastern Ukraine near the village of Vasilyevka. The site consisted of a cemetery with dozens of burials. This individual was carbon-dated to between 11,143 and 10,591 years old, meaning that they lived during the Early Eneolithic not long after the retreat of the glaciers. Also buried at the site were stone tools made of flint, bone weapons, and perforated shells. One of the oldest burials at the site was of a male that had flint points lodged in his ribs and others in his chest area, suggesting that this may have been a warrior that died in battle .
Genetic analysis determined that our individual had mixed Western and Eastern hunter-gatherers genes and was strongly connected to hunter-gatherers that lived in Central and Western Europe . They likely represented a continuation of populations that had existed in Ukraine since the Paleolithic. All individuals belonged to the mitochondrial U haplogroup, which was the most common haplogroup among European hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and still exists in Europe today although at lower frequencies due to the genetic contribution of incoming European farmers . Of three males in the sample two belonged to the R1 haplogroup, which is a relatively recent lineage thought to have arisen in this region during the early Holocene [12-13]. It is commonly present in Europe today and is thought to have spread with the expansion of Indo-European languages several thousand years after our individuals lived. One male belonging to the I haplogroup, which is a very ancient lineage found in Europe and West Asia, particularly towards caucuses . It likely originated in European Paleolithic and can be found among Europeans today.
- Greenfield H. 2006. The spatial organization of Early Neolithic settlements in temperate southeastern Europe: a view from Blagotin, Serbia. In: Robertson JDS ElizabethC, Fernandez DeepikaC, Zender MarcU, editors. In Space and Spatial Analysis in Archaeology. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. pp. 69–79.
- Taylor, K.C., Mayewski, P.A., Alley, R.B., Brook, E.J., Gow, A.J., Grootes, P.M., et al., 1997. The Holocene- Younger Dryas transition recorded at Summit, Greenland. Science 278: 825-827.
- Smith DE, Harrison S, Firth CR, Jordan JT. 2011. The early Holocene sea level rise, Quaternary Science Reviews, Volume 30(15–16):1846-1860.
- Spikins P. 2008. Mesolithic Europe: glimpses of another world. In Bailey G, Spikins P. (eds) Mesolithic Europe. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. pp. 1-17.
- Zvelebil M. 2008. Chapter 2. Innovating Hunter-Gatherers: The Mesolithic in the Baltic. In Bailey G, Spikins P. (eds.) Mesolithic Europe. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. pp. 18-59.
- Woodman PC. 1985. Mobility in the Mesolithic of northwestern Europe: an alternative explanation. In: Price TD, Brown JA, editors. Prehistoric hunter-gatherers: the emergence of cultural complexity. Academic Press: Orlando. p 325–339.
- Price TD. 1987. The Mesolithic of Europe. Journal of World Prehistory 1:225–305.
- Rozoy JG. 1989. The revolution of the bowmen in Europe. In Bonsall C, ed. The Mesolithic of Europe. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, Ltd. p 13–28.
- Conneller C, Schadla-Hall T. 2003. Beyond Star Carr: The Vale of Pickering in the 10th Millennium BP. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 69: 85-105.
- Jones ER, Zarina G, Moiseyev V, Lightfoot E, Nigst PR, Manica A, Pinhasi R, Bradley DG. 2017. The Neolithic Transition in the Baltic Was Not Driven by Admixture with Early European Farmers. Current Biology 27:576-582.
- Secher B, Fregel R, Larruga JM, Cabrera VM, Endicott P, Pestano JJ, González AM. 2014. The history of the North African mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6 gene flow into the African, Eurasian and American continents. BMC Evolutionary Biology y14: 109.
- Underhill PA, et al. 2010. Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a. European Journal of Human Genetics 18: 479–484.
- Underhill PA, et al. 2014. The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a. European Journal of Human Genetics, 23: 124–131.
- Fu Q, et al. 2016. The genetic history of Ice Age Europe. Nature 534:200–205.
- Mesolithic Stone Tool https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=mesolithic&title=Special:Search&profile=default&fulltext=1&searchToken=474cjk558g1myaiafb6mmkhf9#/media/File:Complete_flint_pick_of_Late_Mesolithic_or_Early_Neolithic_date_(7000_BC_%E2%80%93_3000_BC)._(FindID_100332).jpg