Michail Zhilin

Professor, Institute of Archaeology of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moskva

Terminal palaeolithic and mesolithic blade industries from urals to Europe

Surveys and excavations, carried out during last two decades produced a large number of terminal Paleolithic and Mesolithic sites with blades of various size and shape over this vast territory from Eastern Urals to modern Kaliningrad area.

Earliest blade industries are dated there to late Paleolithic. One such site was recently discovered near Tver, indicating the initial settlement of the Upper Volga after the retreat of the ice sheet.

 Terminal Paleolithic sites are more numerous. Some of them produced flints, comparable with Bromme, Ahrensburgian and Swiderian cultures of Northern and Central Europe, others yielded specific inventories, not known in other areas.  Most blades from these sites are irregular, struck with the help of hard and soft hammer or punch. Production of regular microblades by pressure and their use as inserts of composite weapons is well documented on Upper Volga already during the end of the Younger Dryas in the lower layer of Zolotoruchye 1.      

Earliest sites of the Butovo culture show further development of this tradition. Microblades and cores for their production are accompanied by slotted bone arrowheads with regular microblades preserved in their original position in slots. Preboreal and early Boreal sites of this culture show the highest level of production of microblades and slotted bone and antler weapons. The role of this technology decreased during the second half of the Mesolithic, and they became scarce or single at sites of the early Atlantic period.

The other tradition, probably originating from Bromme-like sites is represented by the Ienevo culture. Blades were produced during the Preboreal and the first half of the Boreal periods with the help of the hard or soft hammer, pressure technique and inserts for composite weapons are absent or single. Only several sites dated to the second half of the Boreal period show some increase of the role of the latter. This culture disappeared during the last quarter of the Boreal period.

The first stratified peat bog site Beregovaya 2, excavated in 2008-2010 in the Eastern Urals area produced early, middle and late Mesolithic cultural layers with good preservation of organic materials and clear evidence of blade and microblade production in this area since the very beginning of the Mesolithic about 10000-9800 BP.

Research of technology of lithic and bone industry, use-wear analyses and experiments are now performed together with colleagues from Yekaterinburg. We apply different methods to our materials and are interested in discussion of many aspects of prehistoric technology with our European colleagues. 

The terminal Paleolithic and Mesolithic of the Upper Volga and Kaliningrad areas have many similarities in the Stone Age of Northern, Central and even Western Europe. Both regions produced sites which can be associated with pioneering settlement in connection with deglaciation.

We propose a common workshop for the network members and Russian colleagues in the city of Tver, to discuss the similarities, differences and possible origins  of technologies applied to different raw materials in the Stone Age.


 1956 Born on may 24'th in Moscow, Russia 
 1978 Graduated from Moscow State University,  MA, Archaeology
 1979 Entered Institute of   Archaeology,  Russian  Academy  of  Sciences, Moscow as a laboratory technician.

Institute of   Archaeology,  Russian  Academy  of  Sciences, Moscow,  Ph. D.   Thesis: "Technological  and  Functional Analysis of Mesolithic Stone Artifacts from Upper Volga"

 1999  Institute of   Archaeology,  Russian  Academy  of  Sciences, Moscow, Habilitation Dr. Thesis “Mesolithic bone industry of East European forest zone”.


Current position

Leading researcher of the Stone Age department, Institute of   Archaeology,  Russian  Academy  of  Sciences, Moscow. Director of the Upper Volga expedition.

Scientific interests

Late Paleolithic – Mesolithic of the forest zone from Western Europe to Western Siberia. With special attention to lithic and bone technology, excavations and complex analyses of wetland sites with organic remains, interrelation of humans and their environment.

Main activities include

field surveys and excavations of wetland sites on Upper Volga, in Kaliningrad region and Eastern Urals area; typological, technological, use-wear and experimental studies of terminal Paleolithic and Mesolithic industries.

Author of 9 books and over 150 articles.


  1. 1993. Bone weapons of prehistoric population of Upper Volga region. Moscow. Russkaya ravnina publisher. 54 pp. (in Russian).
  2. 1999. The Mesolithic of the Volga-Oka interfluve. Moscow. Nauka publisher (with L.V. Koltsov). 147 pp. (in Russian).
  3. 2001. Mesolithic bone industry of the East European forest zone. Moscow. URSS publisher. 346 pp. (in Russian).
  4. 2002.  Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures of the Upper Volga region (after materials of Ivanovskoye 7). Moscow. Nauka publisher. (with E.L. Kostyleva, A.V. Unkin, A.V. Engovatova). 256 pp. (in Russian).
  5. 2004. Natural environment and economy of the Mesolithic population of the Center and North-west of the forest zone of Eastern Europe. Moscow. Academia publisher. 144 pp. (in Russian).
  6. 2006. Mesolithic peat bog sites of Tver region. Moscow. Lira publisher. 140 pp. (in Russian).
  7. 2007. Terminal Paleolithic of the Yaroslavl flow of the Volga. Moscow. 143 pp. (in Russian).
  8. 2008. Terminal Paleolithic of the European forest zone (with L.V. Koltsov). Moscow. 313 pp. (in Russian).


  • 1983. Results of use-wear study of lithic artifacts from the site Starokonstantinovskaya 4. In: Arheologicheskiye issledovaniya v Verhnevolzhje. Kalinin. (in Russian).
  • 1983. The Mesolithic site Krasnovo 1. In: Arheologicheskiye issledovaniya v Verhnevolzhje.Kalinin.  (with Bodunov E.V., Vorobyov V.M.). (in Russian).
  • 1986. Correlation of function and morphology of Mesolithic flint tools from East European forest zone. Arheologiya, N 55. Kiev. (in Russian).
  • 1987. On factors, determining change of lithic industry of Mesolithic cultures. In: Aktualnyje problemy arheologicheskih issledovaniy. Kiev. (in Russian).
  • 1987. Flintworking in the Butovo culture. In: Sotsialno-ekonomicheskoye razvitiye drevnich obschestv i arheologiya. Moscow. (in Russian).
  • 1994. Archaeological investigations at Ozerki peat bog in 1990-1992. In: Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N1, Tver. (in Russian).
  • 1994. Some aspects of transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic on Upper Volga. In:Problemy izucheniya epohi pervobytnosti i rannego srednevekovya na Verhney Volge. N1. Ivanovo. (in Russian).
  • 1995. Functional-planigraphic study of the site Belivo 4g severnaya. Rossiyskaya Arheologiya, N2 (with A.E Kravtsov). (in Russian).
  • 1996.  The Western Part of  Russia in Final Palaeolithic - Early Mesolithic" in L. Larsson (ed.) Earliest Settlement of Scandinavia. Acta Archaeologica Lundensia. 80: 1995.
  • 1996. Arrowheads of the Shigir type in the Mesolithic and early Neolithic of Eastern Europe. In:  Chernyh I.N. (ed.). Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N2. Tver. (in Russian).
  • 1996. Some  results of excavations of the site Ozerki 5 in 1990-1994. In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.)Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N2. Tver. (in Russian).
  • 1997. Mesolithic and early Neolithic sites of the western part of the Dubna peat bog. In:Drevnosti Zalesskogo kraya. Sergiev Posad. (in Russian).
  • 1997. Composite arrowheads of the Butovo culture. In: Nizhegorodskiye issledovaniya po kraevedeniyu i arheologii. N2. Nizhniy Novgorod. (in Russian).
  • 1997. Flint Raw Material from  the Upper Volga and its Use in the Final Palaeolithic - Neolithic. In: R. Shild & Z. Sulgostovska (eds). Man and Flint. Warszawa.
  • 1997. Beaver mandible tools from Veretje 1. In: Oshibkina S.V. Veretje 1. Poselenije borealnogo vremeni na severe Vostochnoy Evropy. Moscow. (in Russian).
  • 1998. Adaptation of Mesolithic cultures of the Upper Volga region to flint raw material. In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.) Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N3. Tver. (in Russian).
  • 1998. Environmental changes and settlement history of  Ozerki 5, 16 & 17.  In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.)Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N3. Tver.(with E.A. Spiridonova and A.S. Aleshinskaya). (in Russian).
  • 1998. The Mesolithic site  Belivo 6v. In: Arheologicheskiy sbornik. Trudy GIM, N 96. Moscow (with Kravtsov A.E., Leonova E.V.). (in Russian).
  • 1998. Technology of the Manufacture of  Mesolithic Bone Arrowheads on the Upper Volga. //European Journal of Archaeology: 1998:1:2.
  • 1998. "Artifacts, Made of Animals' Teeth and Jaws in the Mesolithic of Eastern Europe". In:Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists. 1997. Ravenna.
  • 1998. Chronology of the Upper Volga early Neolithic culture. Rossiyskaja Arheologija, N2. (with A.V. Engovatova and E.A. Spiridonova). (in Russian).
  • 1999. New Mesolithic Peat Sites on Upper Volga. In:  S. Kozlowsri (ed). Tanged Points cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. Lublin.
  • 1999. Tanged Point Cultures in the Upper Volga Basin. In: S.  Kozlowski (ed). Tanged Points Cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. Lublin (with  L.V. Koltsov).
  • 2000. Chronology of the transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the forest zone of Eastern Europe. In: Algirdas Girininkas (ed.). Lietuvos archeologija. 19. Vilnius, pp. 287-297.
  • 2001. Radiocarbon chronology of a multilayer settlement Ivanovskoye 7 (with N.E. Zaretskaya and L.D. Sulerzhitski). In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.) Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N4. Tver. (in Russian).
  • 2001. Technology of the manufacture of bone daggers in the Mesolithic of Upper Volga. In: Alice M. Choykie, Laszlo Bartosiewicz (eds). Crafting bone: Skeletal Technologies through Time and Space. BAR International series 937, pp. 149-156.
  • 2001. Radiocarbon studies of peat bogs: an investigation of South Kamchatka volcanoes and Upper Volga archaeological sites. In: Radiocarbon, v. 43, n.2, 2001. (with Zaretskaya N.E., Ponomareva V.V., Sulerzhitski L.D).
  • 2002. Bone industry of the Mesolithic Butovo culture on Upper Volga. Rossiyskaja Arheologija, N3. (in Russian).
  • 2002. Mesolithic hunting and fishing in the interfluve area of Volga and Oka rivers (on the materials of the peat bog settlements). In: A.V. Golovnev (ed.). Northern Archaeological congress. Papers. Academkniga publishers. Ekaterinburg. Khanty-Mansiisk.
  • 2002. Exploitation of birds in the early Mesolithic of Central Russia.   In: Proceedings of the 4thMeeting of the ICAZ Bird Working Group, Krakow, Poland, 11-15 September, 2001. Acta zoologica cracoviensia, 45 (special issue). (with Karhu A.A.).
  • 2002. To the problem of the pioneer settlement of Karelia and Southern Finland. In: Shakhnovich M.M. (ed.). Proceedings of the Karelian regional museum. Vol. 4. (in Russian).
  • 2002. Stratigraphy and planigraphy of the multilayer settlement Stanovoye 4 on Upper Volga. In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.) Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N5. Tver. (in Russian).
  • 2002. The age and genetic types of sediments of two sections of the multilayer settlement Stanovoye 4 (Ivanovo region). In: Chernyh I.N. (ed.) Tverskoy arheologicheskiy sbornik, N5. Tver.
  • (with Zaretskaya N.E. and Uspenskaya O.N.). (in Russian).
  • 2003. Early Mesolithic communication networks in the East European forest zone. In: Lars Larsson, Hans Kindgren, Kjel Knutssom, David Leffler and Agneta Akerlund (eds). Mesolithic on the Move. Oxbow books. Oxford.
  • 2003. Deep in Russia, deep in the bog. Excavations of Stanovoje 4 and Sahtysh 14, Upper Volga region. In: Lars Larsson, Hans Kindgren, Kjel Knutssom, David Leffler and Agneta Akerlund (eds).Mesolithic on the Move. Oxbow books. Oxford. (with Heikki Matiskainen).
  • 2003. Early Mesolithic peat bog sites on the Upper Volga. In: Peatlands. Archaeological sites – archives of nature – nature conservation – wise use. Proceedings of the  European Peatland conference 2002 in Hannover, Germany. Hannover, ??. 48-61.
  • 2004. The use of living space at Mesolithic sites in Central Russia. In: Olena V. Smyntina (ed.). The Use  of Living Space in Prehistory. BAR International Series 1224. Oxford. Archaeopress, pp. 79-87.
  • 2004. The terminal Paleolithic – early Mesolithic of the Upper Volga and colonization of the Northwest of Eastern Europe. In: Helena Knutsson (ed.). Pioneer settlements and colonization processes in the Barents region. Vuollerim Papers on Hunter-gatherer Archaeology. Vol. 1. Vuollerim, pp. 107-118.
  • 2005. Zaretskaya N.E., Zhilin M.G., Karmanov V.N., Uspenskaya O.N. Radiocarbon dating of wetland meso-neolithic archaeological sites within the Upper Volga and middle Vychegda. In: Geochronometria. 2005, vol. 24: 117-131.
  • 2006. Zhilin M.G. Das Mesolithikum im Gebeist zwischen den Flussen Wolga und Oka: einige Forschungsergebnisse der letzten Jahre. Praehistorische Zeitschrift 81/1 (2006/1): 1-48.
  • 2006. Flint distribution and exchange in the Mesolithic in the East European forest zone. In: Gabriele Korlin & Gerd Weisgerber (eds.) Stone Age – mining age. Bohum, 2006, pp.475-483.
  • 2007. Zhilin M.G. Mesolithic wetland sites in Central Russia. In: Malcolm Lillie and Stephen Ellis (eds). Wetland Archaeology & Environments. Regional issues, global perspectives. Oxford. Oxbow books. 2007. Pp. 65-78.
  • 2007. The early Mesolithic of the Upper Volga: selected  problems. In: Contributions to the Central European Mesolithic. Wroclaw. Pp. 89-104.
  • 2008. Landscapes and settlement  on Upper Volga during terminal Paleolithic and Mesolithic. In: Anders Olofsson (ed.). Archaeology of Settlements and Landscape in the North. Vuollerim Papers on Hunter-gatherer Archaeology. Vol. 2. Vuollerim.
  •  2008. Bone perforated plates and production of strings and ropes in the Mesolithic: a case study from Stanovoye 4 site, Upper Volga. In: L. Longo (ed.). Praehistoric technology: 40 years later. Functional studies and the Russian legacy. Verona.
  •  2009 Radiocarbon and Anthropochemical Studies of Mesolithic Human Bones from the Upper Volga. In: Radiocarbon, Vol 51, Nr 2, 2009, p 637–645. (with . Alexandrovskiy, A.L., Alexandrovskaya, E.I.,  van der Plicht, J.).
  • 2009. Chronology and evolution in the Mesolithic of the Upper Volga - Oka interfluve. In: Radiocarbon chronology and evolution in the Mesolithic of Europe. Bruxells, pp. 451-472.
  • 2010. Antler perforated staff heads from Central Russia and Eastern Urals area. In: A. Legrand-Pineau, I. Sidéra, and N. Buc, E. David V. Scheinsohn (eds.),
  • 2010. Ancient and Modern Bone Artefacts from America to Russia. Cultural, technological and functional signature. BAR International Series 2136, 324 p. 135-140.