Ulalinka the Oldest Palaeolithic Site in Siberia

Ulalinka: the Oldest Palaeolithic Site in Siberia

Siberia is a land which is often overlooked in history and archaeology. This is such a shame as there are many wonderful sites and archaeological discoveries to be found. The oldest Palaeolithic site in Siberia is Ulalinka.

Ulalinka was discovered in 1961 and is situated on the right tributary of the Maima River, on the left side of the Ulalinka below the cemetery of Gorny Altaisk. The site is located on the edge of the Iogola Ridge, which is composed of flint limestone, quartzite and other rock material dating from the late Proterozoic Age.

The site has two cultural layers that were exposed to the ridge as well as well as in a pit in the hilltop dug to a depth of 5.8 meters. “This section’s strata differ in genesis and form three informal units. In one of the pits walls this section was as follows: (1) modern black soil, 0.70 m; (2) grey-brownish loam with worm tunnels and roots of vegetation, 0.3 m; (3) loessy light grey loam with columnar parting and lime nodules, 0.3 m; and (4) loessy light brown loam with lime nodules, 0.4 m”. Confirmed by finds of molluscs, these four layers make up a typical late Quaternary loam unit.

The first cultural layer is found on the lower part of this loam unit, which then proceeds with lumpy brown clay, 0.45 m, then brown clay with iron hydrates, followed by yellowish brown clay with crushed stone. These particular layers and make up the middle section and indicates, along with the general appearance of the loan unit, a much earlier Quaternary age.

The upper cultural layer has yielded a vast array of archaeological artefacts, particularly Palaeolithic implements. Some of these include a few flakes, fragments of a prismatic core, a point, and a small scraper of a semi-lunar blade made of obsidian. These tools are from an age younger then the Sartan glaciation, which is less than 25,000 years ago.

One of the interesting things about this site is the fact that the stoning inventory and the way the tools were manufactured are not only so primitive, but they are so peculiar that they do not belong in the usual classification of the Lower Palaeolithic typology. Even the classic western European nomenclature schemes cannot be applied here.

The archaeological data was enough to date the site, however geological, paleogeographical paleontological methods were used as well. These methods by did not produce a common date; some scholars believe the site be no more than 40,000 years old, others dated it to the Middle Pleistocene, whilst others believed to it today from the Early Pleistocene. “A further group of scholars assigned it to the Late Pliocene on the basis of paleogeographical environments and lithology of the cultural layer”. However, we know now that the site itself is definitely more than 690,000 years old, making Ulalinka the oldest Palaeolithic site in Siberia.


Okladnikov, A. L. & Pospelova, G. A. (1982) Ulalinka, the Oldest Palaeolithic Site in Siberia, Current Anthropology, The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.