The effect of formation processes on the frequency of palaeolithic cave sites in semiarid zones: Insights from Kazakhstan

Aristeidis Varis, Christopher E. Miller, Patrick Cuthbertson, Abay Namen, Zhaken Taimagambetov, Radu Iovita

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Central Asian caves with Palaeolithic deposits are few, but they provide a rich record of human fossils and cultural assemblages that has been used to model Late Pleistocene hominin dispersals. However, previous research has not yet systematically evaluated the formation processes that influence the frequency of Palaeolithic cave sites in the region. To address this deficiency, we combined field survey and micromorphological analyses in the piedmont zone of south Kazakhstan. Here, we present our preliminary results focusing on selected sites of the Qaratau mountains. Sediment cover varies among the surveyed caves, and loess-like sediments dominate the cave sequences. The preservation of cave deposits is influenced by reworking of cave sediments within the caves but also by the broader erosional processes that shape semiarid landscapes. Ultimately, deposits of potentially Pleistocene age are scarce. Our study provides new data in the geoarchaeologically neglected region of Central Asia and demonstrates that micromorphology has great analytical potential even within the limitations of rigorous survey projects. We outline some of the processes that influence the formation and preservation of cave deposits in Kazakhstan, as well as broader implications for the distribution of Palaeolithic cave sites in Central Asia and other semiarid environments.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)594-616
    Number of pages23
    JournalGeoarchaeology - An International Journal
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


    • Central Asia
    • Kazakhstan
    • cave sediments
    • geoarchaeology
    • micromorphology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Archaeology
    • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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