Ulug Depe

May 9, 2017

Ulug depe, in what is now the nation of Turkmenistan, is an important Central Asian archaeological site. It is known for its pottery assemblages and citadel structural remains from multiple cultural layers, from the Late Namazga IV and V (Bronze Age) to the Yaz II and III (Iron Age). The remains of the site lie in the steppe of the eastern Kopet Dagh piedmont zone where alluvial fanning spread throughout the land starting from the Kelet River (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). The nearest major city is Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, which is 175 km west of the site. The nearest small town is Dushak, about 5 km north. (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). Ulug depe’s coordinates according to Google Earth are 37 ° 09’17.38”N, 60 ° 01’46.42”E, and its elevation is 931 feet. The main citadel’s area is 1.7 square km. Although Ulug depe is the most common spelling, occasionally the archaeological site is referred to as Ulug tepe.

Archaeologists V. I. Sarianidi, K. A. Kachuris, and I. S. Masimov conducted multiple excavations at Ulug depe starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). From 2001-2010, Lecomte, Bendezu-Sarmiento, and Mamedov took part in the Turkmen-French Archaeological Expedition (also known as the French-Turkmen Archaeological Mission) and excavated multiple trenches by Ulug depe’s main citadel. (Bendezu-Sarmiento & Lhuillier, 2011).

Various Yaz II potsherds from Ulug depe.

Ulug depe contains many cultural layers that denote its ages of occupation; in fact, it contains the longest stratigraphic sequence in Central Asia (Boucharlat et al., 2002). The main mud-brick citadel has been dated to the Iron Age/Yaz II period according to ten charcoal samples upon which radiocarbon dating was performed. This dating process determined the structure was built between 979833 BCE to 799759 BCE at 99% probability (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). Going deeper into the soil (and therefore further into the past), older ceramics were dated to the Bronze Age/Late Namazga IV and V periods. Potsherd slip testing specifically provided the dates of 2646 ± 100 BCE – 2690 ± 100 BCE (Masson, 1988). Clearly, Ulug depe was inhabited during drastically different time periods, and therefore it can be argued that different “cultures” lived at the site. However, it is most likely that the people who occupied the site during the different eras were actually similar people. Nomadism, trade, and environmental changes could have caused them to leave, then come back again generations later.

Many materials, especially pottery, have been found at the site of Ulug depe. Approximately 40 different pottery shapes have been discovered dating to the Iron Age/Yaz II period. In particular, pieces of large jars with convex walls and sealings typical of the Iranian Iron Age/Yaz II period were found in ground floor rooms of the citadel, indicating the citadel’s possible function for food storage (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). The jar sherds appear to be mainly coil-built and wheel-fashioned (despite a few handmade coarse wares for storage. Potsherds for the Yaz II period number in the hundreds, and more than half indicate closed, rather than open, profiles (Bendezu-Sarmiento & Lhuillier, 2011). Fine horizontal lines on much of the Yaz II period pottery walls indicate the wheel-throwing technique of pottery (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). Three paste types were found: fine and light, coarser paste with mineral temper, and very coarse. About a quarter of the pottery from Yaz II was decorated with painted motifs (Bendezu-Sarmiento & Lhuillier, 2011). What is unique to Ulug depe is the red slip covering some sherds.

Skeletonized remains of about 15 people were discovered, associated with potsherds and animal bones from the Iron Age. One of these graves included a two to four year old child from the Middle-Late Iron Age, with his arms positioned bent against the thorax and his body bent so that his feet almost touch his skull. These remains possibly indicate sacrifice and decarnization based on Zoroastrian religion and culture (Bendezu-Sarmiento & Lhuillier, 2011).

Pottery from Ulug Depe with characteristic red slip.

Ulug depe was probably the village center based on its large size and centrality of the citadel, which was built on the highest elevation of land in the immediate vicinity. The high concentration of pottery and evidence of a main road also point to its importance as a settlement center (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). Other smaller buildings that indicate the existence of a city were also excavated, such as a treasury and palatial complex associated with a fortification wall (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). In some of the remains of multiple-room houses at the site, two-story kilns were uncovered point to pottery firing in the Early Bronze Age (Kohl, 2015).

Many of the ceramics unearthed at Ulug depe represent the Yaz II culture, which is characterized by beak- and hooked-rim jars. Yaz II has been identified in other sites such as Bektepa, Kuchuk II, and Kyzylcha 6 (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). Chronologically, the Yaz II cultural period in Ulug depe dated to more recent times than these other sites, possibly because aspects of Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) culture took a longer time to reach the Kopet Dagh foothills. Related to this, the use of red slip indicates cultural contact with people of the Iranian plateau because similar slip has been found at sites such as Sialk A in modern-day Iran (Bendezu-Sarmiento et al., 2013). The archaeological evidence of wheel-made pottery beginning in the Yaz II period marks the transition between Bronze Age and Iron Age cultures. In the Bronze Age, pottery was mainly handmade coarse ware (Bendezu-Sarmiento & Lhuillier, 2011). The painting of pottery occurred in all layers including as far back as Namazga IV, but became the predominant style by Yaz II across Central Asia, and specifically at Ulug depe (Kohl, 2015). This evidence of cultures comes together to the conclusion that the Yaz II type artifacts did not arise autochthonously, but rather as a result of cultural contact between those at Ulug depe in the foothills of the Kopet Dagh and other cultures in the BMAC (Kohl, 2015).


Works Cited

Bendezu-Sarmiento, J., Dupont-Delaleuf, A., Lecomte, O., Lhuillier, J. “The Middle Iron Age in Ulug-depe: A preliminary typo-chronological and technological study of the Yaz II ceramic complex.” Marcin Wagner. Pottery and chronology of the Early Iron Age in Central Asia, The Kazimierz Michalowski Foundation. 2013.

Bendezu-Sarmiento, J. and Lhuillier, J. “Iron Age in Turkmenistan: Ulug depe in the Kopet-Dagh piedmont.” M. Mamedow. Historical and Cultural sites of Turkmenistan. Discoveries, Researches and restoration for 20 years of independence, Turkmen state publishing service, 2011.

Boucharlat R., Francfort H.P., Lecomte O., Mamedow M. “Recherches archéologiques récentes à Ulug Dépé (Turkménistan).” Paléorient, Vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 132-131. 2002.

Kohl, P. L. The Bronze Age Civilization of Central Asia: Recent Soviet Discoveries. Routledge, 2015.

Masson, V. M. Altyn-Depe. UPenn Museum of Archaeology, 1988.



May 7, 2017

Alternate spellings: “Tamsag Bulag,” “Tamsagbulak,” “Tamsag,” “Tamsak Bulak,” Mongolian: “Тамсагбулагийг”

Tamsagbulag was a major site during the relatively understudied Mongolian Neolithic. While originally presumed to have been active during the 3rd millennium BCE, recent radiocarbon dating techniques place the site between 4753 and 4155 BCE (Okladnikov and Derevianko, 1970), (Séfériadès, 2004). This site, or constellation of sites, rather, served as the key location of a sophisticated but short-lived Tamsagbulag culture. This culture was characterized, among other things, by both sedentary hunter-fisher-gatherers and agriculturists who occupied southeastern Mongolia and northern China during the late Neolithic.

(Location of Tamsagbulag within Mongolia) (Séfériadès, 2004)

Tamsagbulag lies in the Dornod region – the easternmost province of Mongolia – just a few kilometers away from the Chinese border (Manchuria) (see figure 1). The sites can be accessed after a five-hour drive southeast from the town of Choibalsan, the province’s capital. In Mongolian, “Bulag” means spring, and it’s likely that a fertile spring once existed here though the area today more closely resembles a dry desert steppe (Okladnikov and Derevianko, 1970). Most of the sites in Tamsagbulag are situated on a high plateau terrace (at an elevation of 700 m) with a flood plain at its foot. About 1 km away from the area exists the remains of a large, shallow lake that is almost completely dry today. Natives of the region, in conjunction with some fossil finds, suggest that the area was once rich in gazelles, boar, and saiga antelopes before the Soviet Army drove them out (Séfériadès, 2004).

The site itself is constituted by at least three major clusters (villages?) of semi-subterranean, quadrangular, wattle-and-daub houses. As a whole, this constellation of houses occupies around 12-13 km of area, with each house individually spanning 30-40m2 (7.60 m long, 5.60 m wide and 0.60 m deep) (Séfériadès, 2004). The position of the houses atop the plateau allowed for its inhabitants to observe the surrounding landscape and its fauna. The houses all lack any ostensible windows or doors, suggesting that the inhabitants entered and exited through the pyramidal roofs (Dani, 1993, 172).

Several artifacts have been discovered in each of the three recorded ‘villages’, all of which suggest a very distinct, relatively advanced Tamsagbulag culture. Tamsagbulag 1, which was first investigated in 1970 by a Russian research team led by A. P. Okladnikov and A. P. Derevianko, revealed several stone implements made from flakes and cores of a variety of shapes. One such shape of core scraper was so anomalous that it is now referred to as the “Tamsagbulag type” (Dani, 1993, 172). The Tamsagbulag type of stone tools is characterized by “a bevelled striking surface fashioned by making transverse chips. The flakes were removed from only one side and the shoulder was cut into a point or wedge shape” (Dani, 1993, 172) (See figure 2). At the time of Tamsagbulag 1’s discovery, tools of this nature were entirely unique to the Tamsagbulag culture alone. In addition to these distinct scrapers, remnants of arrowheads, hammers, adzes, and primitive hoes were also found in great quantity. The presence of these artifacts, in addition to fossil discoveries of ostensibly domesticated livestock, suggest that the Tamsagbulag people enjoyed a relatively rich and sophisticated culture of hunting, gathering, fishing, and even agriculture (Dani, 1993, 172).

(Illustration of Tamsagbulag stone tools) (Dani, 1993)

Further evidence of the sophistication of the Tamsagbulag culture was discovered during a second excavation of the site in by a French research team led by Séfériadès (1997). This session revealed the sites of Tamsagbulag 2 and 3, which were discovered on the opposite bank of the ancient lake (Séfériadès, 2004). In addition to the discovery of these sites, several new artifacts were also unearthed, including chipped stones, ceramics, and grave goods. The chipped stone remnants discovered at both of these sites suggest a diverse and thriving stone industry within Tamsagbulag culture. Many utilitarian stone remnants were found, including bladelets and fragments of both adzes and hoes, further suggesting that the inhabitants of Tamsagbulag engaged in some form of early agricultural behavior. This behavior has been referred to as the earliest known indicator of farming in Mongolia, and helps provide a narrative about Central Asian cultures during the Neolithic that deviates from the traditional nomadic archetype (Eisma, 2012).

In addition to stone tools, the research team discovered semi-precious stones of a variety of colors, such as jasper, quartz and chalcedony (Séfériadès, 2004). They were also able to recover two pieces of obsidian, which are not native to the area, and may suggest the presence of medium and long-distance exchange network patterns within the Tamsagbulag culture (Séfériadès, 2004). Following these discoveries, Séfériadès began to refer to the inhabitants of Tamsagbulag as “les preimiers paysans de Mongolie,” or, “the first peasants of Mongolia” (Séfériadès, 7, 1999).

Excavation of all three Tamsagbulag sites have also yielded pottery fragments from the Neolithic and possibly Early Bronze Age (Séfériadès, 2004). These pieces of pottery are also seen as a distinct aspect of the Tamsagbulag culture, as “nothing like it has been found among remains from the same period in other parts of Central, North and East Asia” (Dani, 173, 1993). The fragments are distinguished by grey, thick-walled, friable, pieces of clay with high sand content and geometrically incised or impressed surfaces (Dani, 1993), (Séfériadès, 2004). The distinct nature of these ceramic fragments are seen by Dani (1993) as “unquestionable evidence” of a local thriving ceramic industry (172).

A third indicator of a relatively sophisticated, distinct Tamsagbulag culture is found in their burial customs. Tamsagbulag burials were first reported by Okladnikov and Derevianko (1970), when the researchers found human skeletal remains beneath the floor of Tamsagbulag 1. Remarkably, the skeletons were discovered in a sitting position, which is almost entirely anomalous in Europe and Asia and more akin to mummies of ancient Peru (Séfériadès, 2004) (see figure 3). A series of grave goods accompanied these skeletons, including bone knives and necklaces fashioned from Maral incisors and mother of pearl beads (Séfériadès, 2004) (see figure 4).

(Recreation of Tamsagbulag burials) (Séfériadès, 2004)

(Illustration of necklace found in Tamsagbulag burial site) (Séfériadès, 2004)

Fortunately, a scholar by the name of Alex Humbolt has already mapped out key sites of the Tamsagbulag expeditions on Google Earth. In my opinion, the most impressive set of coordinates, (47°15’46.65″N, 117°17’23.50″E) depicts what appears to be an ancient Neolithic, Tamsagbulag village with many houses. The site becomes visible from an eye altitude of 13,869 feet and spans an area of roughly 7km. However, from the Google Earth view, it’s difficult to discern which notches in the earth are ancient houses and which are the result of archaeological excavations. Another set of coordinates: (47°16’20.25″N, 117°16’9.38″E) very clearly show the remnants of a few long semi-subterranean houses characteristic of Tamsagbulag culture. These houses individually are consistently 42 m long and 7.5 m in width and are still remarkably visible today.




Séfériadès, M. L. 2004. An aspect of Neolithisation in Mongolia: the Mesolithic-Neolithic site of Tamsagbulag (Dornod district). Universités Rennes 1, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie. Retrieved from: <http://revije.ff.uni-lj.si/DocumentaPraehistorica/article/view/31.10>


Séfériadès, M. L. 1999. A Tamsagbulag, les premiers paysans de Mongolie. Archeologia 0570-6270. Retrieved from: <http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=2022715>


Dani, A. H. 1993. History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The Dawn of Civilization: Earliest Times to 700 B.C. United Nations Educational.


Eisma, D. 2012. Agriculture on the Mongolian Steppe. The Silk Road. Retrieved from: <http://www.silk-road.com/newsletter/vol10/SilkRoad_10_2012_eisma.pdf>


Humbolt, A. 2006. Mongolia – Tamsagbulag neolithic site (5.000 BC) Google Forums. Retrieved from: <https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gec-history-illustrated/LfqBNkf0n18>


Okladnikov, A. P., and A. P. Derevianko (1970). Tamsag-Bulak. Neoliticeskaja kul’tura Vostocnoj Mongolii. Materiali po istorii I filologii Tsentral’noy Azii 5: 3–20.

Sarazm (Саразм)

May 7, 2017

Sarazm ( Саразм) is an Aneolithic site located in Western Tadjikistan in the Sughd region about 5.0 km from the Uzbekistan border. Situated on the Samarkand plain on the left bank of the Zarafshan river, Sarazm provides evidence for a sophisticated sedentary settlement with agricultural and metallurgical advancements in the Steppic landscape (Isakov 1981). Sarazm is located at  N39 30 28 E67 27 37 (UNESCO World Heritage Convention).

The site is easily identified using Google Earth, coming into view at approximately 6,500 ft. The entire site’s total area is approximately 130,100 m2 and its perimeter is approximately 1,682 m. Its elevation is around 3020 ft (Google Earth).

Excavations sponsored by the USSR began in 1976 under Abdullah Isakov. During this initial period there were two small villages, Avazali and Sokhibnazar, on either end of the site and Penjikent was the nearest city at 15 km east (Spengler and Willcox, 2013, 213). Today the area is more populated, featuring developed areas on the outskirts of the site (Google Earth). Later excavations were done collaboratively between Isakov, his team and French and American archaeologists after the dissolution of the USSR. The site has been excavated and researched continuously since the initial dig.

Circular building (Besenval and Isakov 1989, 9)

According to Isakov et. al (1987) Sarazm dates back as early as the fourth millennium BCE placing it around 6000 years old via radiocarbon dating of materials such as clay and bones (90).  Isakov et al.(1987) divides the chronological frame of Sarazm into three distinct phases; Sarazm I is dated to the early fourth millennium, Sarazm II to the late fourth and early third millennia, and Sarazm III to the later half of the third millennium (90).  According to a later archaeologist Razzokov (2008) there are four distinct occupation phases; Sarazm I dates from 3500-2900 BCE, Sarazm II from 2900-2600 BCE, Sarazm III from 2600-2300 BCE, and Sarazm IV from 2300-2000 BCE (Spengler and Willcox 2013, 213). Razzokov’s phases are more supported and concrete, as dating techniques have improved.

Isakov’s initial excavations unearthed multiroom buildings, burials, and other artifacts including pottery, stone objects, and metal pieces. During the second excavation, evidence of occupation during all three of Isakov’s phases was discovered.The findings from the Sarazm I phase were limited due to disturbances from later building by the former occupants of the site. A courtyard and three rooms were found; two of the rooms were connected by a doorway. The Sarazm II phase findings included five living complexes, each having an exit to a courtyard containing a hearth and bread oven (Isakov 1981, 274). Within the Sarazm III phase, more rooms were found along with five burials of two children and three adults. These graves had no grave goods, instead artifacts such as bones, ceramics, and ashes were found in courtyards (Isakov, 1981, 276). Circular hearths found within some of the rooms showed parallels in design to those in Turkmenian sites Geoksyur and Aina-depe.

Excavation II map (Isakov 1981, 275)

Isakov’s third excavation contained the remains of seven rooms constructed from brick unlike the former excavation which had clay as the predominant material. This complex is suggested to be a communal building with storage areas for grain, supported by its layout and the lack of material remains within the complex (Isakov 1981, 278). The ceramic fragments found are of particular interest to researchers because of their painted nature and similarity to those of the Namazga culture from southern Turkmenistan. The pottery was either polychrome, featuring dark-brown and dark-rose designs on red or light-yellow backgrounds, or monochrome with dark-brown designs on a lighter background.  The triangles and sawed designs within rectangles on certain ceramics parallel designs from Geoksyur and Kara-depe (Isakov 1981, 278). Issakov and Lyonnet (1988) note that there is an absence of local ceramics and suggest that this is because those from Turkmenistan colonized Sarazm (42). Sarazm was an ideal location because of its proximity to lapis-lazuli and mineral rich mountains, its proximity to the Zerafshan River, and its formation and preservation of long term trade (Issakov and Lyonnet 1988).

Ceramic fragments studied by Issakov and Lyonnet (1988, 41)

Reconstructed ceramics (Isakov and Besenval 1989, 15).

According to Isakov (1981) stone objects such as plummets, cups, mortars, grinding stones, pestles, spindle whorls, beads, jambs, and whetstones showed similarities to those from Anau, Kara-depe and other non-Central Asian sites including those in Iran and Afghanistan (279).  Bronze knives, daggers and an axe-adze were found indicating the presence of metallurgy.

Excavation III Map (Isakov 1981, 277).

During Isakov’s fourth excavation four terracotta venus statuettes were found (Isakov 1994, 4). One statuette with a bird-like head shows similarities to statuettes found at Göksür, but, overall, the statuettes resemble those found in Southern Turkmenistan. Bone awls, piercers, and needles were found, suggesting they were used in conjunction with bronze tools. Shells were also found suggesting that contact was established and maintained with distant places (Isakov 1994, 5). Four other burials with grave goods were found, contents included domestic and cosmetic objects including a bronze mirror, seashells, and gold and silver beads indicating the high statuses of those buried (Isakov 1994, 6).  Isakov’s later excavations revealed religious buildings along with more communal buildings and residential buildings.

Evidence for metallurgy at Sarazm include vast amounts of bronze tools and ornaments along with stone metal-casting molds and crucibles. Tools included daggers, knives, a fishhook, spear tips, darts and needles while other objects included beads, a mirror, a stamp and pins. (Isakov 1994, 9).  Isakov et al. (1987) studied the chemical composition of metals present in the objects found, showing that many are essentially pure copper combined with lead or iron in some cases (100). Cold-working produced the bronze mirror found; this process involves hammering the metal to the desired shape and then heating it to 500 Celsius. Other objects were produced in the more traditional manner of heating and then pouring into a mold. The latter method is similar to other metallurgical contemporaries in Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Indus Valley (Isakov et al. 1987, 101). Sarazm’s copper was likely smelted from malachite, cuprite, or azurite from the Zerafshan Valley. The settlement likely had its own stores of metal since many objects come from the same smelting batches (Iakov et al. 1987, 101).

Bronze daggers and bronze axe-adze (Isakov 1981, 284)

Evidence for the agricultural nature of Sarazm include archaeobotanical analysis of seeds at the site. (Spengler and Willcox 2013). Seed samples, taken from hearths, house floors and middens, were analyzed by flotation, allowing comparison between native flora of the area. Wheat and barley seeds were found along with other wild flora suggesting that the settlement did grow crops but also still depended on native flora to survive (Spengler and Willcox 2013). Lentils were also found, however, their wild or domestic origin is unclear. Sarazm’s granary along with bread hearths near residential areas suggest that they had a surplus of grain from farming (Benseval and Isakov 1989). Sarazm also depended on herding, as shown by the remains of sheep, goat and cattle, however hunting of gazelle, wild pig, fox and birds also supplemented their diet (Spengler and Willcox 2013, 214). It is theorized that since the area is unable to be irrigated traditionally that dry farming was implemented (Spengler and Willcox 2013).

Sarazm is an ancient permanent settlement known for the presence of agriculture and metallurgy. The site contains multi-room residential complexes, communal buildings complete with granaries, religious buildings, and areas where burials have occurred. Sarazm demonstrates a greater span of communication during the Aneolithic period as evidenced by the similarities its ceramics and metal objects show compared to Turkmenian, Iranian, and Mesopotamian sites. It is likely a member of the same culture that Namazga sites as evidenced by the analogous designs and paintings on ceramics.

Besenval, R. and Isakov, A. “Sarazm et les débuts du peuplement agricole dans la région de Samarkand.” Arts Asiatiques Vol. 44 (1989), pp. 5-20.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/43484861


Isakov, A.Excavations of the Bronze Age Settlement of Sarazm.” Soviet Anthropology and Archaeology, 1981, 19:3-4, 273-286, http://dx.doi.org/10.2753/AAE1061-1959190304273


Isakov, A. “Sarazm: An Agricultural Center of Ancient Sogdiana.” Bulletin of the Asia Institute. Vol 8, 1-12. 1994. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24048761


Isakov, A., Kohl, P. L., Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. and Maddin, R. (1987), Metallurgical Analysis  From Sarazm, Tadjikistan SSR. Archaeometry, 29: 90–102. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.1987.tb00400.x


Isakov, A., and Lyonnet, B.. “Céramiques De Sarazm (Tadjikistan, URSS): Problèmes D’échanges et de Peuplement à la Fin du Chalcolithique et au Début de l’âge du Bronze.” Paléorient, vol. 14, no. 1, 1988, pp. 31–47., www.jstor.org/stable/41492267.


Spengler, R. and Willcox, G. “Archaeobotanical results from Sarazm, Tajikistan, an Early Bronze Age Settlement on the edge: Agriculture and exchange.” Journal of Environmental Archaeology. 2013. Vol.18:3. 211-221.


UNESCO “Proto-Urban Site of Sarazm” http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1141


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. <http://archaeolog.kz/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=105:2013-09-25-09-36-00&catid=19:—–2&Itemid=25&lang=en>

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