ISSN 2227-2380 (Print)

List of issues > «Geoarchaeology, Ethnology, and Anthropology Series». 2017. Vol. 21

Human and Struthio Asiaticus: One Page of Paleolithic Art in the Eastern Part of Central Asia

A. M. Khatsenovich, E. P. Rybin, B. Gunchinsuren, Ts. Bolorbat, D. Odsuren, G. Angaragdulguun, G. Margad-Erdene
The territories of modern Mongolia, China and Transbaikalia were inhabited by Struthio asiaticus (Asian ostrich) during the Pleistocene. That species had become extinct there by the Early – Middle Holocene boundary, but had shared its home range with early modern humans, which there is a limited evidence suggesting their active use of ostrich eggshell. The discovery of eggshell beads in Upper Paleolithic sites supports the conclusion that this raw material was the basis of personal ornament production along with softer types of stone, bone, ivory and antler in the Transbaikalia, and the main basis in Mongolia and China, with few exceptions. There is no strong evidence for the use of ostrich eggshell as a container for liquid storage, but numerous discoveries of eggshell fragments unassociated with beads circumstantially supports that conclusion for the Early Upper Paleolithic in Northern Mongolia. Eggshell beads are a convenient material for multidisciplinary studies, from technological processes of shell treatment and bead production to analysis of wear traces and dating methodology. The development of ostrich eggshell dating is still on-going using various approaches because of the specifics of sample pretreatment: interior and exterior surfaces of eggshells yield different radiocarbon ages while the OSL method dates the age of loose sediments from the shells’ interior sediments obviously accumulated there at some later point in time. Focusing on Paleolithic sites in Mongolia, we provide the all known chronometric data for ostrich eggshells discovered in China and the Transbaikalia as well, comparing the chronology of the Asian ostrich’s existence and outlining its habitat parameters. Verifying the classification of beads developed originally for African archaeology, this research provides additional archaeological and experimental data on ostrich eggshell bead production, yielding evidence that this type of personal ornamentation could have been produced by means of technologically unsophisticated perforators since the Initial Upper Paleolithic.
Central Asia, radiocarbon dating, experimental archaeology, Struthio asiaticus, ostrich eggshell, Paleolithic art

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