Upper Palaeolithic grinding stones from Eastern European sites: An overview

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Technological development in Europe around the end of the Middle and beginning of the Upper Palaeolithic was expressed not only in the new methods for working flint, bone, antler, etc., but also by appearance of processing food and raw materials by grinding, crushing and abrasion. Ground plant resources can be dried and stored for longer periods and are more digestible when cooked and eaten, while crushed mineral substances can be used to create mixtures with new physical qualities. These are obvious observations to make, and findings of Palaeolithic grinding stones are known, but at the same time, we have a poor idea of the distribution of artefacts used for grinding. There is still no general understanding of where, from which periods, and in which forms they are found. This article reviews the corpus of Upper Palaeolithic grinding stones from the East European Plain, including 76 directly studied finds from 15 sites. Macroscopic and, where possible, microscopic traceological analysis has been used for their analysis. From this review we observe that grinding stone tools in the region under study include the following types: grinding slabs or lower grindstones (most often found as fragments from the late Middle Palaeolithic and later; in the Upper Palaeolithic they were used for grinding pigments, plant resources and for polishing stone); two types of grinders or upper grindstones (active tools) – elongated for repetitive, continuous movements and short for circular or irregular movements (used for grinding pigments and the working of plant resources; in the Late Upper Palaeolithic at Eastern Epigravettian sites trapezoidal grinders, similar to those from later periods, appear); pestles-grinders (found on sites related to the Eastern Gravettian); and finally, pestles (which appeared as specialised artefacts in the Late Upper Palaeolithic). Most sources refer to the sites of Gravettian circle and Epigravettian. One-third of them are securely associated with pigment and the remaining two-thirds have indications of use for grinding soft fibrous material. Based on these data, the study of paleo-economics and other aspects of the prehistory can be developed.

Translated title of the contributionТерочные камни верхнего палеолита с территории Русской равнины
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-181
Number of pages20
JournalQuaternary International
Early online date22 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020

Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

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