• V. M. Stepanchuk Institute of Archaeology, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • O. I. Nezdolii Institute of Archaeology, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
  • D. O. Vietrov Institute of Archaeology, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Keywords: Crimea, Middle Palaeolithic, Neanderthals, natural pigments, ocher, non-utilitarian activity.


Assemblages of discovered in 1973 by Yu. G. Kolosov and between 1977 and 1985 investigated by the directed by him Crimean Palaeolithic expedition of IA AN USSR the multilayered Mousterian site of Prolom II contain a comparatively large series of fragments of ocher. The undertaken study of morphological features, traces of artificial transformation, the supposed signs of use on given objects, allows us to formulate the following. Spatial distribution of findings over the site area seems to reveal the gravitation towards the back area of shelter, but this pattern can be distorted due to the incompleteness of data on the exact position of objects found in course of the recent years of excavation. The most probable source of origin of the material in the collection was river alluvium. This is evidenced by the shape of many objects (small pebbles), and, possibly, by scratches and other damage to surfaces. It is possible, however, that some of the surface damage (scratches, incisions, hollows) is of anthropogenic origin. A significant part of fragments, 30 of the available 44, are either products of intentional breaking (crushing), or bears the marks of splitting, flaking and retouching. Part of objects has intensely polished areas, which appeared, it is not excluded, as a result of use.

Finding natural pigments in the context of the cultural layer of European Middle Palaeolithic sites has traditionally been associated with non-utilitarian activities of the Neanderthals. The revision of materials of Prolom II revealed quite numerous ocher finds in several Middle Palaeolithic layers. There is a reason to believe that pigments were supplied by the alluvium of the Kuchuk-Karasu River, remote from the site at a minimal distance of a few tens of meters. Items in the collection are mostly fragmented and demonstrate numerous signs of secondary processing. The fact of the presence in the Middle Palaeolithic layers of Prolom II of a rather numerous series of artificially ground fragments of mostly soft ocher, found near the site and intentionally brought to it, as a minimum, attests to a certain interest of the Neanderthals to natural pigments. Natural pigments do not belong to the number of vital items, therefore, the actions with which they were processed can not be explained by purely utilitarian causes. Layers I—III are dated radiometrically and refer to span between 23 to 41 uncalibrated radiocarbon thousands of years ago. Thus, the data we have obtained delivers new additional information to the general fund of evidence on the non-utilitarian practices of the late Neanderthals of Eastern Europe.


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How to Cite
Stepanchuk, V. M., Nezdolii, O. I., & Vietrov, D. O. (2018). NATURAL PIGMENTS IN MATERIALS OF THE MULTILAYERED MOUSTERIAN SITE OF PROLOM II. Archaeology and Early History of Ukraine, 28(3), 7-21.