The ancient european inhabitance.
Prehistoric humanity on the territories of Ukraine and Poland



The ancient inhabitance of contemporary Ukrainian and Polish territories is tightly connected with the anthropological process – the appearance and formation of a human being. Now it is absolutely known: biological history of humanity started nearly two million years ago. The view held by most scientists, the most probable motherland of „Homo”, which includes prehistoric and modern people, was Africa. To be more precise, it was an region in eastern Africa, the place of gigantic mountain fraction, which spreads from the north to the south of the continent for 8,000 km. This particular region was inhabited by the Australopithecus – the hominoid ape – at the turn of the Quaternary, which are supposed to be immediate ancestors of people. Prehistoric human remnants „Homo habilis” (skillful human) and hand-made tools were found there, which belonged to the first archeological culture in the world – Oldowan.[1] A prominent English paleontologist, Lewis Leakey, also found in Tanzania the remnants of Homo kanamensis – the first „real” person, who belonged to biological species „Homo erectus” (straight-walking human). The roots of modern human physiology are African.[2]

The development of ancestors’ physiology was accompanied by sudden climate changes. Due to general decrease in temperature, which started at the end of the Tertiary. In the middle latitudes of the North gigantic glaciers were formed, which occasionally got bigger or smaller. In the period of the highest activity of a glacier (250100 thousand years ago) the powerful layer of ice covered 30% of Euro-Asian surface, covering northern and middle territories of Poland and Ukraine. Close to the glacier, in muddy plains and tundras, and to the south of it – in cold forests and forest steppes – arctic animals lived, such as mammoths, furry rhinoceroses, north deer, cave bears, etc.[3] Glacial movements were accompanied by the world ocean’s level getting lower, which facilitated the migration of first human groups – the representatives of the Homo erectus species from Africa to Euro-Asia.

According to archeological data, the appearance of the first people on the territories of Europe took place nearly 2 million years ago. Scarce camps with primitive labor tools, found in some regions of Southern and Central Europe (for example in the grotto Vallone near Nice, in the Maritime Alps), prove that this assumption is true. However, human „visits” to Europe had only been occasional at that time. The real inhabitance of the continent took place later – nearly a million years ago, during the so-called Acheul archeological culture or early Paleolithic period (from the town Chelles Acheul in France, where the stone pieces of this historical epoch were discovered for the first time), which extended from 1.5 million to 150 thousand years ago. The creators of this culture, which typical feature was wide spreading of stone chisel – a massive tool with two-sides processing were archenterons and so-called „archa sapiensis”, who inhabited the South, Center and the East of the continent, including the territories of modern Ukraine and Poland.

The most famous monuments of the Acheul culture in Ukraine are located near the village Koroleve in Zakarpattya; also in Luka Vrublevetska in Podnistrovya; and Zhytomyr in Pollisya; Amrosiivny in Donbas, in Crimea etc.[4] As far as Poland is concerned, the most ancient proofs of first people’s activity, dated 500370 thousand years ago, found in the suburbs of Trzebnica and in Rusko near Strzegom in the Sudety mountains.[5]

Till nowadays, the sources of first human beings’ migration on the territories of Europe should have been searched for on southern east of Europe, in Caucasian region in particular. However, the research of early paleolitical camp near the village Koroleve in Zakarpattya, the lowest layer of which dates nearly a million years ago, forced researchers to change these opinions completely. The entire set of data acquired through excavations of this unique many-layers monument, under the supervision of the archeologist V. Gladylin from Kyiv, provide persuasive evidence for the claim that the inhabitance of Ukrainian and Polish territories advanced from Central Europe and the Balkans.[6]

The bone remnants of the Acheul people are very rare. Every such discovery becomes a real scientific sensation. On the territories of Ukraine and Poland they have not been discovered yet. However, the physical features of „European ancestors”, who bequeathed their most ancient archeological monuments to us, can be reconstructed on the basis of discoveries made in other countries of Europe, in particular: the lower jaw of a human being, who lived nearly 500 thousand years ago (the location near Heidelberg in Germany); the skull of a twenty-year-old hunter, killed about 400 years ago (cave Arago in the Eastern Pyrennes in France); the fragment of occipital bone, which dates the same period of time (the camp near the village Vértesszőllős in Hungary); the bones of a well preserved man who died nearly 300 thousand years ago (the cave of Petralon near Thessaloniki in Greece) etc.

All these discoveries have one common feature: mosaic mixture of very archaic and more contemporary peculiarities of their morphological structure, which provided reasons for the distinction of „archaic human species.” According to contemporary researchers, they belonged to the biological species Homo heidelbergis („Heidelberg human being”), which developed in the territories of modern Africa nearly 800–900 thousand years ago.[7]

According to archeological data, the basis for the life activity of „Heidelberg human being” was hunting for big animals. These activities were effective due to a number of factors, in particular: collective agreement for group actions, availability of enhanced tools, and the use of fire. In search of hunting opportunities, the groups of „archaic sapiens” constantly moved from one place to another, gradually conquering the regions with moderate and cold climate. Trying to run away from cold, the humans inhabited caves and learned to build artificial dwelling constructions.

Nearly 150 thousand years ago, during the last ice age, in the territories of Europe and in some other regions of the Old world the monuments of the Mousterian (from the name of grotto Le Moustier in France) culture appeared. They were created by human beings called the Neanderthal men. Judging from the geography of the main finds, the majority of European Neanderthal men lived in the pre-ice zone. There were many features in their appearance connected with the adaptation to severe climate conditions.

The Neanderthal men achieved significant success in different spheres of life activity. They produced and used various stone, bone, and wooden tools and successfully hunted for big animals – mammoths, rhinoceroses, bisons, bears, etc. These first men finally mastered the fire and learned not only to use natural shelters, but to build dwelling as well. The remnants of one of them has been discovered by an archeologist from Lviv on the high hill of the right bank of the Dniester not far from village Moldovo in Northern Bukovyna.[8] As for the production skills and the intellectual level, the Neanderthal men left their ancestors far behind. They pondered upon the meaning of existence, having created an abstract picture in their imagination of reality which surrounded them. The Neanderthal men were worried by the death of their tribal members: particularly in the time of Le Moustier culture the first burials appeared.[9] The development of the ability of abstract imagination is borne out by the cult of the cave bear, whose traces are found in many Le Moustier locations of Europe. The Mousterian period is also considered the root of prehistoric art. One of its example is the profile of an animal, cut out on the bison’s bone made with a flint knife, found by an archeologist from Lviv, O. Sytnyk, during the excavations of the camp Pronyatyn near Ternopil. The animal is depicted in full size with straight paws, bent belly and curved back. The quality of the picture testifies to advanced drawing skills of the prehistoric author.[10]

Nowadays, more than 50 Neanderthal men’s camps were found in different regions of Ukraine. The majority of them are located in Crimea, where in grotto Kijk-Koba near Simferopol a buried woman and a baby were found. The Neanderthal men also conquered the south of Poland: prehistoric tools made by them were discovered at the camps Racibóż–Studzienna and Krowodrza. The camp of Le Moustier period in the „Dark Cave” in the village Ojców is also very well know, and is available to tourists. In the cave „Paradise” near Kielce tools were found, similar to those, which are to be found at the Neanderthal men’s camps of the middle Danube. Nearly 300 deer horns were found, arranged in a way that resembled a defensive line, made to protect the cave entrance.[11]

About 40-35 thousand years ago the upper Paleolithic period began, when the Cro-Magnon (after the name of grotto Cro-Magnon in France) people (also known as neoanthropus „new people”) appeared, who belonged to the Homo sapiens species, from which modern man evolved. According to the American genetic scientist A. Wilson, the modern man derives from one woman (in specialist literature it has several names: „African Eve”, „mitochondrial Eve” or „Noah’s Ark”), who lived on the African continent, in the south part of the Sahara 100200 thousand years ago.[12] About 100 thousand years ago the first groups of Cro-Magnons appeared in Asia, where they co-existed with the Neanderthal men for more than 60 thousand years. Soon afterwards a sudden demographical growth took place, which caused massive migrations to different sides of the Old World. During these migrations the groups of the neoanthropus met with the Neanderthal men, who proved inferior in the competition, as suggested by some scientists, and soon died. Interbreeding could have taken place between the „new” population and the „old” one.[13]

The period of the Upper Paleolithic was characterized by significant achievements in the development of material and spiritual culture of the prehistoric people. At that time, the new techniques of stone processing were invented, the stone tools became much more variable, including up to 100 types of tools. A bone, a horn of a mammoth, were used more and more widely for producing tools. More complicated tools were used more often, the first mechanisms appeared, like the spear, which significantly increased the distance, on which a hunter could target a goal. The discovery in the cave Oblazova near the city Nowy Targ of the oldest boomerang, made about 30 thousand years ago, became a real sensation in the scholarly world. The European neoanthropus lived on big animal hunting in the conditions of severe climate in the pre-ice zone. This is why, they often lived in caves and grottos and built artificial dwellings, which varied according to size, shape and construction. Round-shaped construction with diameter of 56 m. prevailed, whose outside look reminds of the dwellings of the modern inhabitants of the polar zone. Skulls covered by the ground served as the basis for such constructions, with the addition of mammoths’ horns and thick girders covered by animals’ skins. A lot of such dwellings were discovered on the territory of Ukraine (the settlement Mizyn on the Desna river, Mezhyrich on the Ros river, Dobranychivka on the Supon river, Radomysl on the Teterev, etc.).[14] The average Upper-Paleolithic camp consisted of 46 dwellings, with about 50 inhabitants.[15]

Many upper-Paleolithic monuments were researched on the territory of Poland. The most ancient of them were found in the village Dzierzyslaw near Glubczyce, Cracow–Zwierzyniec, in the so-called Mammoth Cave in Wierzchowie, The Lokietko’s cave in the village Ojcow, in the cave Oblazovy near Nowy Targ (these monuments date back to 4035 thousand years ago). 1812 thousand years ago people rather tightly inhabited the pre-mountain area of the Sudety and the Carpathians, where stone articles of a specific shape were found in the cave Mashytsky near the city Olkusz (Upper Silesia), which on scientists’ opinion, were used during the ceremonies connected with magical actions.[16] The bone remnants of 16 people: men, women, children were found there.

The Upper-Paleolithic was the epoch when prehistoric art bloomed: cave art, sculpture, engraving, which impress with own skillfulness, emotional coloring, the distinctiveness, and dynamism. The subjects for drawing were based on the pictures of animals, less frequently – the pictures of people (more often – women). About 20 statues of „Venus” with the length of 510 sm. were found during the excavations of the Mizynske settlement.[17] In 19541961 during the excavations of the biggest igloo dwelling, standing out for its unusual shape and construction, proportions and durability, bones of a mammoth were found, painted with a protective ochre – a natural pigment often used by the prehistoric man in cave painting, rituals and magic ceremonies. Scientists claim that these are the oldest known percussion instruments.[18]

About 1210 thousand years ago significant climate and geographical changes took place on Earth, which were caused by natural global warming. The ice layer, which covered Europe gradually moved to the North and in some time it disappeared on the shores of a deep lake, which was located on the place of what is now the Baltic Sea. This huge water pool, whose level was much higher than the level of the World Ocean, was separated from the Atlantic Ocean by ice. After the ice break near the Mountain Bilingen in central Sweden, the level of this cold pre-ice lake fell to 30 meters and it was filled with warm salty water of the Atlantic Ocean. This caused considerable warming and moisturizing of the climate. On the territories of Ukraine and Poland, as everywhere in the North, modern hydro-physical network gradually formed, and landscape structures of the moderate zone appeared: a forest, a forest-steppe, a steppe. The new Holocene epoch began, which continues at present.

The beginning of the Holocene coincided with the beginning of a new historical period – Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age. In the new climatic and geographical conditions the first societies mastered the new forms of welfare. Mammoths disappeared as well as other big animals of pre-ice era, which made collective hunting obsolete. The hunters of the Mesolithic period were forced to search individually for food, which led to an invention of the bow – a distant-target reaching weapon.[19] A human tamed and trained a dog for the first time, and from now on the dog has been his loyal assistant.

More than 300 Mesolithic locations are known today on the territories of Ukraine. Among them are durable settlements with remnants of dwellings, where about 5060 or even 100150 people could live, and short-term camps, single tombs and family necropolises.[20] Osteological collections of these monuments which were gathered in excavations have no match all over the world. Through craniological research it was found out that during the Mesolithic period the representatives of different anthropological variants. They had northern (graves Vasylivka 1, 2) and southern grave (Voloske)[21] origin lived on the territories of Ukraine.

Many Mesolithic camps were discovered on the territories of Poland as well, the significant part of which specialist archeologists refer to as the culture of Komornytsya. As a type it is very similar to the culture of Kudlayivka, the monuments of which are located in the Ukrainian Pollisya. Both kinds of culture, very similar to one another, belong to one and the same historico-cultural community – the Duvensee.[22]

In the Mesolithic period the population of Europe increased significantly, which caused the development of new forms of welfare. Significant changes in the life of people took place in the next historical epoch – the New Stone Age period.

[1] L. S. B. Leakey, P. V. Tobias, J. R. A. Napier, New species of the genus homo from Olduvai George, „Nature”, 1964, V. 202,4927.

[2] More detailed about this: С. Сегеда, Антропологія, Київ 2001, p. 177.

[3] Природа и древний человек (Основные этапы развития природы, палеолитического человека и его культуры на территории СССР в плейстоцене), ed. Г. И. Лазуков, М. Д. Гвоздовер, Я. Я. Рогинский and others, Москва 1981, p. 4253.

[4] Первісне суспільство [In:] Давня історія України (in 3 parts), P. 1, Київ 1997, p. 28, 29, 32.

[5] P. Kaczanowski, J. K. Kozłowski, Najdawniejsze dzieje ziem polskich, Kraków 1998.

[6] В. Н. Гладилин, В. И. Ситливый, Ашель Центральной Европы, Киев 1990, p. 2538.

[7] А. А. Зубов, Палеоантропологическая родословная человечества, Москва 2004, p. 211, 227.

[8] Я. Елинек, Большой иллюстрированный атлас первобытного человека, Прага 1982, p. 237.

[9] А. А. Зубов, Неандертальцы: что известно о них современной науке, „Этнографическое обозрение”, 1999,3, p. 6773.

[10] О. Ситник, Деякі аспекти походження первісного мистецтва у світлі нових фактів, „Народознавчі зошити” (two months edition), 1996, Notebook 1 (7), January–February, p. 20.


[12] A. Wilson, R. Cann, The recent African genesis of humans, „Scientific American”, 1992, V. 266,4, p. 6873.

[13] For more detailed info see: А. А. Зубов, Палеоантропологическая родословная…, p. 323336.

[14] И. Г. Пидопличко, Позднепалеолитические жилища из костей мамонта на Украине, Киев 1976.

[15] Етнічна історія давньої України, Київ 2000, p. 12.


[17] Первісне суспільство, p. 98.

[18] С. Н. Бибиков, Древнейший музыкальный комплекс из костей мамонта, Киев 1981.

[19] В. Н. Станко, М. І. Гладких, С. П. Сегеда, Історія первісного суспільства, Київ 1999, p. 137.

[20] Первісне суспільство, p. 119.

[21] И. И. Гохман, Население Украины в эпоху мезолита и неолита (Антропологический очерк), Москва 1966.

[22] Л. Л. Залізняк, Біля витоків етнічного поділу людства, [In:] Етнічна та етнокультурна історія України, P. 1 (the second book), Київ 2005, p. 11.