The activity in the archaeological field has been very intense thanks to numerous scientific expeditions and explorations in various regions.
The picture of knowledge on prehistory is considerably expanded. Various locations in the western Caucasus shed light on the Chellean and Aucheulean periods; a Neandertaloid skull has been found near Pyatigorsk. S. Zamjatnin explored five Paleolithic stations on the Black Sea coast, in the Caucasus, in alluvial deposits of ancient terraces, with facies Acheulean, Levalloisian, Mousterian. Caves with Mousterian deposits have been excavated near Adler; V. Gorodcov excavated a Mousterian station in Il’skaja on the left bank of the Ili River in the North Caucasus, and many Mousterian localities, corresponding to the maximum phase of the Riss glaciation, were discovered along the Derkne and middle Desna, at Ostrovskaja on the Čusovaja River. Paleolithic settlements were excavated in the Urals and V. Gromov explored caves with Quaternary animal remains in Ust′-Katav and Klinčevaja and Buranovskaya. Extensive Paleolithic explorations took place in Siberia where AP Okladnikov dug a station at Bureti on the right bank of the Angara, from the beginning of the Magdalenian, finding a statuette made from a mammoth tusk, all covered with half-moon decorations that should not be interpreted as a tattoo but as clothing. An expedition led by G. Sosnovskij studied the Paleolithic stations near Srostki on the right bank of the Katemi. An expedition led by G. Rudenko explored 14 places on the Čukotsk Peninsula, finding more than 2000 objects of an Eskimo-type culture widespread in Alaska.
Paleolithic settlements, discovered in Gagarino and Kostenki sul Don and near Irkutsk, attest to the existence of sedentary populations; in Timonovskaja a village was excavated by VA Gorodcov. There have been documentations of the Azilian and Late Tardenois periods; caves in southern Crimea reveal a culture close to the Upper Capsian. A Paleolithic station excavated in Borščevo near Voronež on the right bank of the Don by P. Efimenko and P. Boriskovskij has given three levels from the Middle Magdalenian to the Azilian. Mesolithic stations of the Oka valley were studied by M. Paničkina and M. Voevodskij.
An exploration directed by A. Okladnikov took place along the Lena from its source to the Arctic sea for 4500 km. through the territory of Yakutia revealing stone age settlements, from Kačug to Marčakan, with Paleolithic objects and rhino remains. About 12 Neolithic stations with various facies and large numbers of Neolithic graffiti on rocks have been discovered between Tujna and Pokrovsk.
Extensive are the finds from the Metal Age, the most interesting around Žigansk with the burial of a warrior armed with a club; burials of women in Bulun with ornaments similar to those of the ancient Eskimos. Stations from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age have been excavated in Mariupol ′ on the Sea of Azov, in Olenij Ostrov on Lake Onega, tombs by the Angara River and Lake Baikal. Near Melitopol ′ on the Sea of Azov L. Bader studied a series of drawings engraved on rocks, with bulls, mammoths, geometric figures of Magdalenian aspect, but which are perhaps Neolithic. An expedition led by E. Korovin in 1946 on the Ust′-Urt plateau in Uzbak revealed Neolithic remains, small square mausoleums with a round dome perhaps for nomadic leaders, of more recent age.
In Džanbas-Kala, a settlement came to light with large common houses of the wale shape, one of which (with a maximum size of 24 × 17 m, surface area 280 m2, height of about 10 m.) Built with poles arranged in three rows concentric; the innermost row is arranged around a ritual hearth with a diameter of m. 1.20, destined for the sacred fire which was always kept alight. Along the periphery of the building there were at least 100 rows of domestic hearths: 46 have been discovered; the house was to hold 100 to 125 people, and the roof was conical with reeds without clay; the pottery is similar to that of southern Siberia with a red surface and decorated with curvilinear segments and with semi-void shapes. It is a late Neolithic culture with a microlithic tradition and extends from the Aral ′ to Suikiang, contemporary with Gobi culture; there are also influences in the South Siberian Neolithic of the macrolithic tradition. The Bronze Age presents rectangular houses; in the early Iron Age there was a shift of the inhabited area on sand dunes towards the river; of the houses, rectangular in clay, one measure m. 77 × 20, with walls wide m. 1,5-2, with internal division into two departments; therefore life continued in community. The plain was then marshy and was then reclaimed with the construction of drainage channels from the seventh century. to. C. onwards.
The metal age is now documented by a huge series of excavations. P. Dimitrev illustrated the stations of the Eastern Urals, between the rivers Tura and Iset ′, which still have a Neolithic physiognomy and which reveal hunting and fishing as the main occupations. Three round huts of m. 7.50 in diameter, with hearths, were excavated in the upper course of the Iset ′; rectangular houses with hearths in Lipčinskaja and Andreevskaja.
In the steppes of the Black Sea there are three types of mounds, pit, catacomb and wooden house, which are also found in the Don basin and along the lower Volga, corresponding to three cultural facies, the first oldest of hunting populations and fishing; the second of a pastoral regime with the first rudiments of agriculture, the third mainly agricultural with some regional variants in the Volga, Donec, Kuban ′, Northern Crimea. The third period corresponds to the middle of the second millennium: it is characterized by elongated houses, relations of patriarchal life, large mounds on the tombs of the leaders; of these mounds, one, very large, was excavated in Tri Brata near Elista.
In the Caucasus metallurgy was very flourishing and its center appears in the district of Kuban ′ in the territory of the Ossetians. Tombs with stone and bronze objects were excavated by E. Krupnov in Galjati. Dolmens have been excavated in the Black Sea regions, Cyclopean walls, fortresses, megalithic monuments from the Bronze Age. The exploration of the Cyclopean fortresses of Azerbaijan was carried out by A. Alekperov and J. Džafar-Zade; the study of megalithic monuments by B. Lunin and J. Meščaninov. In Transcaucasia B. Kuftin dug mounds along the Tsalka River (Georgia) and also unearthed tombs and mounds from the Bronze Age to the Sassanid period in Trialeti, equipped with rich orifices, filigree, encrustations of gems, a silver chalice with ritual scenes. In the Siberian taiga the Neolithic facies is maintained longer, in the steppe to the south that of metals appears; S. Kiselev’s research has highlighted three cultural layers.
In Karelia G. Gurrina unearthed (Povenec district on Lake Onega) a settlement with foundry and many bronze and ceramic objects.
For more recent times, the series of excavations undertaken in the Caucasus, the Crimea, Bactria and Chersonese are no less. Of great importance was the excavation of the fortresses of the Choresm region by S. Tolstov: that of Kyseli-ghir of 1000 square meters. with mighty walls, in whose thickness there are three rows of arched corridors for dwellings (VII-VI century BC). The citadels continue in the following periods without towers, with arrow-shaped slits, with multi-chamber dwellings united in blocks, built in bricks with different stamps that reveal a life in common, but according to a division by individual lineages (IV-I century. a. C.). Later up to the fifth century. d. C. the defense is concentrated around the castle with a feudal regime. Great, typical example is Toprak-Kala, residence of the kings of Choresm, with preserved walls up to 25 m. high, with wall paintings of the third century. d. C., including a harp player, and in a room fragments of large statues also from the third century. d. C.; cult of fire in sacral environments. Archaic clay figurines of the goddess Archamit and clay heads of horses, handles of sacral vessels were found. In the Altai region, the expedition of M. Gryaznov excavated 17 mounds (in Jakonkur near Ust′-Kansk), in one of which (of 2 adults, a child and two horses) 60 gold ornaments were found (2nd century. a. C.-I d. C.). Previous excavations in Pazyryk had revealed a very rich burial covered with a pile of stones, with a wooden sarcophagus covered with leather carved with bird figures; next to the sarcophagus were buried 10 wooden horses carved with fantastic animals and decorative motifs.
In Crimea the excavations of V. Gajdulevič in Tiritaka, an industrial settlement on the Bosphorus, center of salting and export of fish in the Roman period should be remembered: constructions from the sixth century have been found. to. C. up to the eighth century. d. C., with warehouses, courtyards, fish tanks, grape crushing plants and a sealed amphora containing raw oil. In Olbja a two-storey building from the I-II century was excavated. to. C., walls, remains of the city. In Phanagoria V. Blavatskij highlighted the city with the first traces of Greek colonists in the late sixth century. to. C., remains of the classical period with gravel floors, clay hearths, unfired bricks, Hellenistic buildings and traces of the Roman period, including necropolises that reach up to the Middle Ages. At Ninphaeum the excavations of M. Kudiak have revealed a sanctuary of the fifth century. to. C., apparently of Demeter, Greek pottery of the sixth century. to. C., Roman city of the II-III century. d. C. In Neapolis the excavations directed by Pavel Schults have brought to light, near the city walls, a two-storey mausoleum of the III-II century. to. C. of Scythian-Hellenistic architecture, for burial of Scythian chiefs, with gilded wooden sarcophagus, with skeletons of horses and very rich gold and iron furnishings (1312 pieces). In one tomb a warrior with many weapons wore robes decorated with 600 gold ornaments. V. Babenčikov dug a tomb from the first centuries AD. C. with frescoes that give the impression of the interior of a Scythian construction, with columns, curtains and hunting scenes.
In the city of Chersonese (Crimea) they have excavated: a necropolis of the fifth century. to. C., a district of the Hellenistic city on the north side, with a regular network of streets and islands, a Christian basilica of the sixth century. whose central nave was paved with ancient reliefs, depicting a couple of the dead, the labors of Hercules, griffin, Eros with garlands, heads of Medusa and Silenus, perhaps from some mausoleum. From the excavations of the city also comes a statue base with the name of the Athenian sculptor Polycrates.
Bactrian art has recently been the subject of a study by K. Trever, illustrating the materials of the Hermitage Museum; among the most recent discoveries in this field there are 8 fragments of a frieze found in Aitram near the Amu Darja river, in local stone, with busts of various female divinities, with different musical instruments and acanthus leaves; also six pieces of embroidered cloth of the first century. to. C., found in a warrior’s tomb in the Selenga basin in Mongolia, with scenes of horses and a figure of a solar deity. Chinese silk clothing from the Han period (2nd century BC-2nd century AD) was found on mummified bodies in mound tombs excavated at Kenkol in the Talas valley, in the Kyrgyz territory, together with wooden objects and weapons.