Upper Paleolithic Sites near Village of Khotylevo

Khotylevo 2 is a famous Upper Paleolithic site in Eastern Europe located in the Bryansk district, Bryansk Region, on the right bank of the Desna River near the western outskirt of the village of Khotylevo. In 2009–2014 the main focus of the expedition of the Institute was to explore new assemblages of artifacts (locality V and locality D) at the site.

Excavations at locality V have been going on since 2006; its examination has revealed an assemblage of archaeological artifacts similar to those studied by F.M. Zavernyaev in the 1970s. Discovery of locality V is important, first of all, in the context of information on structure of archaeological features, stratigraphy of the cultural layer, and spatial distribution of finds obtained with the use of advanced methods. The Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Laboratory has placed the finds within the range of 22,000–23,000 B.P.

The archaeologists have managed to reconstruct the formation stages of the site that is viewed as a single complex characterized by shallow round pits and mammoth bones embedded into the soil typical for Khotylevo 2, both pits and bones are arranged around the hearth. The study of the mammoth bones embedded into the soil questions the prevailing view today that these bones are components of a dwelling construction, namely, supports of the poles used to make the framework of the dwelling.  A semi-finished core sprinkled with ochre was discovered under one group of the bones, while a quartzite hammerstone was found under the second group located nearby. It should be noted that a double statuette (depicting two female figures standing side by side) found in 2009 is linked to this assemblage of artifacts. A pendant, apparently, a hunter’s trophy made of a canine tooth of a large brown bear was found lying close to it. A new excavation trench was dug north of the excavated area in 2014. The cultural layer recorded in the trench turned out to be rich in both faunal remains and flint artifacts. The study is in progress.

In 2012–2013 locality D discovered in 2014 was examined. In contrast to other complexes, it is located rather far from the edge of the Desna high bank, practically, on the plateau. A stratigraphic column of deposits up to 13 m thick has been recorded in locality D. Its examination allows the researchers to consider it as a key section for the entire Upper Desna Region.

The 2011–2013 excavations uncovered cultural layers of the middle and early stages of the Upper Paleolithic. The cultural layer of the Upper Paleolithic middle period is assigned to the Eastern Gravettian and contains flint artifacts typical for the cultural layer of localities A–V at Khotylevo 2. In addition to that, it is characterized by concentrations of animal bones, mostly mammoth bones, with wolf and brown bear bones as rare finds.

The Bryansk paleo soil was underlying the Eastern Gravettian cultural tion layer, which also contained archaeological artifacts such as knapped flint tools including twisted microbladelets and cores used for their production. These artifacts suggest that the lithic assemblage from the buried soil is Aurignacian. Of interest is the presence of a backed bladelet fragment in the flint tool assemblage. Possibly, the buried soil contains the early Gravettian artifacts in addition to the Aurignacian stones. Using the humus of the paleo soil, the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory of the Geological Institute, RAS, obtained the date around 28,000–29,000 B.P. The follow-up study of locality D will provide an opportunity to get an insight into the early period of the Upper Paleolithic in the Desna Basin, which is a period that so far has remained practically unknown for the region in question.

K.N. Gavrilov

Digital Version of the Booklet