Dereivka and Alexandria

Overarching period: Mesolithic, 15,000 - 4,500 BP
Carbon dating: 7,400 - 4,700 years old
Dereivka - 48.91° North, 33.76° East
Alexandria - 49.71° North, 37.58° East
Site location country: Ukraine
mtDNA haplogroups: H, J
Y haplogroups: R1

Stone Tool An Eneolithic stone tool [21]

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 [1]. 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 [2]. All of this melting ice meant that the oceans swelled, and sea levels rose some 60 meters [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5]. 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 [8]. Unique artifacts such as the famous antler masks of the Star Carr site began to appear [9]. 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.

The Sredny Stog Culture:

In Western and Central Europe, the transition to farming cultures was relatively abrupt, with local hunter-gatherers seemingly pushed to the margins of their former territories. The situation was different in Southeastern Europe where there appears to have been a more mixed transition that is associated with the domestication of the horse [12]. The Sredny Stog culture of around 7,000 years ago was the earliest of these pre-agricultural societies. Archaeological evidence shows these people developed strong social ties with incoming farming people from the Middle East, and would later join the Kurgan culture. The Kurgans expanded out of the Caucuses, spreading Indo-European languages and taking over large areas of Eastern Europe and Central Asia around 6,000 years ago [13-15].

The Individuals from Dereivka and Alexandria:

The six individuals in this sample came from the sites of Dereivka and Alexandria in present-day Ukraine and dated to between 7,400 and 4,700 years ago [10]. Both sites had mixed Eneolithic and Neolithic burials. The Dereivka site was a large cemetery of mostly Neolithic burials, but the individuals here are known to be of Eneolithic origin based on their radiocarbon dates and the presence of Mesolithic fisherman’s huts on the site [16].

Similar to other areas of Europe, there were significant differences between the individual analyzed here and subsequent Neolithic farmers that moved into the area, who had strong recent Middle East connections. Also, by this point in time there were distinct genetic difference between Eastern and Western hunter-gatherers in Europe. The individuals in this sample were genetically related to Eastern hunter-gatherers, and had strong association with samples taken from present-day Karelia in Northwest Russia and Finland [10]. Genetic evidence suggests there was a more significant coevolution of Eneolithic and Neolithic cultures in Eastern Europe based on the persistence of hunter-gatherer lineages [11].

Of these six individuals, there were 3 males and 3 females. Two individuals belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroups H and J, which are commonly found in Europe today and all have Paleolithic origins linked to West Asia [17-18]. Three males had Y chromosomes from the haplogroup R1, which is a relatively recent lineage thought to have arisen in this region during the early Holocene [19-20]. 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.


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  21. Flint Eneolithic found on Rivnenschini.Кремінь111.jpg