Reconstruction of local environments of ancient population in a changeable river valley landscape (The Middle Vychegda River, Northern Russia)

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Abstract

In river valleys, both human occupation and subsequent preservation of archaeological sites are affected by active landscape transformation caused by river lateral migration, incision/aggradation cycles and changes of river hydrological regime. In the middle Vychegda River valley (Northern Russia), there are numerous traces of human presence since the Mesolithic. We exploit multi-disciplinary archaeological, geomorphological and geochronological approach to elucidate the environmental preferences of settlements positioning during different epochs of the Holocene. High resolution space image supplemented with data on alluvial stratigraphy derived from bank exposures and hand cores, as well as 51 radiocarbon dates were used to make the geomorphic map showing ages of floodplain/terrace segments and palaeochannels. Using this map together with sediment facial interpretation, position of archaeological sites was analysed in the context of local geomorphic and hydrologic situation. The majority of archaeological sites and modern settlements are found on terraces at river banks or at oxbow lakes which were well connected to the river. Few exceptions from this rule may be explained by seasonal character of dwelling functioning, ritual burial practice or specialization of settlements. Geomorphic situation was used as a background for planning further prospection of different-age archaeological objects.

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