Shulbinka Paleolithic Site, Eastern Kazakhstan, Revisited

A. A. Anoikin, G. D. Pavlenok, V. M. Kharevich, N. A. Kulik, Z. K. Taimagambetov

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This study revises the cultural and chronological attribution of the Shulbinka site, Eastern Kazakhstan, with reference to recent ideas of the Early Upper Paleolithic in northern Central Asia, including new sites dating to that stage (Tolbor-21, Ushbulak, etc.) and a representative series of absolute dates relevant to the site's chronology. We describe the discovery of the site and principal findings of excavations carried out more than 20 years ago, focusing on the comprehensive analysis of artifacts from Shulbinka, conducted in 2019. We demonstrate that the estimated age and the cultural attribution of the site disagree with earlier interpretations. Earlier claims about the presence of Levallois and Mousterian components in the primary reduction system appear poorly supported. The idea that artifacts from the site resemble those of the Early Upper Paleolithic is subjected to a critical inquiry. As it turns out, the closest parallels to this assemblage are found among the Final Upper Paleolithic industries of southern and central Siberia. Important traits include the combination of large cores for making flakes, blades with edge-faceted and wedge-shaped microcores, and the predominance of end-scrapers and chisel-like tools. Few parallels can be found with industries of different cultural and chronological periods. Based on these analyses, we conclude that the site of Shulbinka dates to the Final Paleolithic. The absence of Final Middle Paleolithic or Early Upper Paleolithic markers makes the site irrelevant to debates around the origin of the Upper Paleolithic in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
JournalArchaeology, Ethnology and Anthropology of Eurasia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Central Asia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Upper Paleolithic
  • lithic industry
  • chronology



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