Surface inspection indicates that prehistoric occupation was neither rare nor ephemeral in the Izvilisty or the Kultuk area. The team documented prehistoric structural remains within a few hours of initiating the surface survey of each area. Many of the subsurface tests revealed multiple episodes of occupation at the same spot. Based strictly on visual inspection of the tephra layers at Kultuk and Izvilisty, the two areas appear to possess a record of human habitation stretching back at least 4000 years, making them relevant to our goal of understanding the mid-Holocene. We expect more accurate age estimates from glass analysis of tephra samples collected from these two areas and the charcoal samples collected from the test pits and unit.
At both Kultuk and Izvilisty, traces of occupation are layered over long periods of time (Figure 2). If our tephra identification is correct, Izvilisty was occupied for perhaps 2000 years suggesting that these areas remained stable and desirable for re-occupation. Within each of the three primary cultural strata at Izvilisty Unit 1, the hearth feature contained several distinct tephra layers alternating with layers of hearth material and fireplace ash (Figure 3). This indicates that volcanic tephra fall was a regular incident in the lives of the people living at Izvilisty. It neither displaced them from their residence for any significant period of time nor did it disrupt their continuity with their recent past. This regular tephra fall is very important to the larger project's goal of linking environmental and cultural dynamics. Volcanic activity reduces temperatures and changes precipitation regimes in the short term and it is clear that it plays a role in the lives of people living along the
lakeshore during the mid-Holocene as well as today.
Figure 2: A comparison of stratigraphy across all test pits.
Figure 3: The stratigraphy of Unit 1 at Izvilisty shows three distinct cultural layers bounded by tephra.
Figure 4: 3D plot of the finds in Unit 1 at Izvilisty.
The distribution of excavated artifacts at Izvilisty does not precisely mirror the visible cultural soils. 90% of all finds were in the bottom cultural stratum, below the coarse, pumice-rich sandy tephra. Finds in the upper two cultural strata were sparse (Figure 4). The structure at Izvilisty contained multiple features within the excavated 1 meter by 1 meter zone – two postholes and a multi-phase hearth pit. The hearth pit is particularly interesting, since it is present in all three cultural strata, in the same location, but changes in shape and size over time (Figure 5a-d).
Fig. 5a: Youngest phase of hearth pit
Fig. 5b: Intermediate phase of hearth pit
Fig. 5c: Intermediate phase of hearth pit
Fig. 5d: Oldest phase of hearth pit (dotted line marks edge of charcoal scatter)
The artifacts from the Izvilisty and Kultuk test pits are difficult to assign to a particular material culture tradition, as they are almost entirely flakes and other toolmaking debris. The few tools come from the Izvilisty excavation (11, or 6.3% of the total finds from Unit 1). One broken, heat-damaged bifacial point may not have been completed and does not resemble anything in the Ushki collection (Figure 6a). Despite the general lack of diagnostic tools in the test unit, a possible piercer made from white chalcedony (Figure 6b) resembles piercing tools excavated at Ushki, which were used in bead-making.
Figure 6a: A damaged bifacial point from Izvilisty
Figure 6b: A chalcedony piercer from Izvilisty