Maibulak (example)

April 16, 2017

Also: Maybulak / Майбұлақ (Kazakh) /Майбулак (Russian)

Location: 43° 9’5.01″N,  76°23’7.79″E (Mica Glantz, personal communication)
Elevation: 1044 m

Maybulak is an Upper Paleolithic site located on the outskirts of the town of Kargaly, about 40 km west-southwest of Almaty in Kazakhstan. At an elevation of around 1000 m, it is in the northern foothills of the Zaili Alatau range of the Tien Shan mountains (Taimagambetov, 2010); just to the south on the opposite side of the mountains is Lake Issyk Kul.

The site was excavated first in 2004 by archaeologists from Al Farabi University and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Novosibirsk, Russia (Taimagambetov, 2010). Later excavations saw collaborators from Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Professor Cofran (formerly of Nazarbayev University) participated in excavations in 2014 when it came to light that the team had spent a month digging through what turned out to be back-dirt used to refill the site from previous excavations. It wasn’t his fault! Excavations are set to continue under the direction of Dr. Radu Iovita at New York University (Radu Iovita, personal communication).

The site is important for two main reasons (Taimagambetov, 2010). First, it is the first stratified Paleolithic site in the Zhetysu oblast of Kazakhstan. Most archaeological discoveries from this period are from deflated geological surfaces (Chlachula, 2010), lacking stratigraphy. Second and related, because the site has several clearly delineated strata, the different layers can be dated. Fortunately, the presence of charcoal provides material for radiocarbon dating – the first radiocarbon dates for any Paleolithic site in Kazakhstan (Taimagambetov, 2010). The third or lowest stratum was dated to 35 ± 0.6 kya, the second to between 30-27.5 kya, and the first and highest stratum to 24.3 ± .2 kya. This time period also saw two large “pulses” loess accumulation (Fitzsimmons et al., 2016), which may have facilitated preservation of these archaeological materials.

Chronologically placed in the Upper Paleolithic period, the artifacts are said to be “transitional” between Mousterian or Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic tools (Taimagambetov, 2010), as is characteristic of many comparably-aged Central Asian sites (Vishnyatsky, 1999). Tools include choppers, side-scrapers, blades …. [say something more meaningful than this, such as what kinds of tools are found, what is most common, what is most interesting, raw materials, etc.].

Figure 2 from Taimagambetov, nd., showing selected artifacts from Horizon II at Maibulak. [In a real post, you’d want also to point out what’s significant in the image that you want the reader to know. In this case it might be significant that #s 3 and 6 are scrapers that have been retouched]

It is difficult to say much about the culture(s) or group(s) occupied this site. Although non-human hominins such as Neandertals occupied Central Asia in the Paleolithic (Glantz, 2010), the relatively young dates for Maybulak suggest the tools were made and used early “modern” humans, who reached Central Asia as early as 45 kya (Fu et al. 2014). Similarly, it is not clear how the site was used. The abundance of stone tools and charcoal remnants of campfires, but lack of animal remains (Taimagambetov, 2010; Taimagambetov, nd), might suggest the area was not a long-term settlement or occupation.

Using Google Earth, the site is clearly identifiable. The visible excavation is rectangular measuring 10.2 x 29.5 m, with an area of about 286 square meters. The site is only 18.4 m away from a road. The site is just downhill from a cemetery, 144.3 m due east at an elevation of 1070 m. The closest, stratified Paleolithic site to Maibulak is Valikhanova, in the Karatau range of the Tien Shan. Measuring the distance between the two sites on Google Earth, Valikhanova is nearly straight west (heading 89.52º) 557 km (both ground- and map-length

[Note there are few publications on this site, as it was only recently discovered. Nevertheless, by drawing on other, relevant articles in the discussion, we’ve easily achieved the minimum of 4 peer-reviewed journal articles and 1 non-English reference]

Chlachula J. 2010. Pleistocene climate change, natural environments and Paleolithic occupation in East Kazakhstan. Quaternary International 220: 64–87. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2009.09.011

Fitzsimmons K, Sprafke T, Zielhofer C, et al. Loess accumulation in the Tian Shan piedmont: Implications for palaeoenvironmental change in arid Central Asia. Quaternary International, in press. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.07.041

Fu Q, Li H, Moorjani P, et al. 2014. Genome sequence of a 45,000-year-old modern human from western Siberia. Nature 514: 445–449. doi:10.1038/nature13810

Glantz M. 2010. The history of hominin occupation of Central Asia in review. In Asian Paleoanthropology: From Africa to China and Beyond, eds Norton and Braun. Springer Science+Business Media BV, pp. 101–112.

Taimagambetov Zh. 2009. Maibulak – First stratified Paleolith site in Zhetysu. Scientific Fund March-June. [Note this isn’t an ideal reference for the assignment since it’s from the internet, so difficult to verify peer review or other credentials]

Taimagambetov, Zh. nd Новые сведения о палеолитической стоянке Майбулак (New information about the Maibulak paleolithic site). Institute for Archaeology. Translated from Russian. <—–2&Itemid=25&lang=en>

Vishnyatsky 1999. The Paleolithic of Central Asia. Journal of World Prehistory 13: 69–122.