The Late Stone Age or Neolith is characterized by waning ice, intense forestation, formation of deep rivers and lakes. The replacement of huge animals with smaller species prompted men to invent a bow and arrows for individual hunting. Man developed new occupations: fishing, pottery, weaving. New stone-working techniques evolved: polishing, grinding, filing, drilling. All those changes gave a new name to the epoch.
Exhibited in the centre of the room is one of outstanding Neolith objects: a huge 7.5 m skiff found by aboriginals on the bank of the Don River, not far from Voronezh, in 1954. The boat is gouged from a whole oak trunk with stone axes (their traces are well seen at the bottom). Inside the boards one can see paired holes used to fix seats for oarsmen. Loops on each side of the prow and stem were meant to haul a boat aver shallow waters from one lake into another or for tugging it to the shore.
Case 1 is dedicated to Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age that followed the glacier melting about 12 thousand years ago and preceded Neolith. Here also one can see implements quite new to that time: a bow and arrows, stone axes and adzes for woodworking, flint arrowheads. From the Upper Volga sites come fishhooks and plummets, a good evidence of fishing in those days, blunt-ended arrowheads for hunting furry animals.
In southern regions Neolith was marked by the rise of productive economy, farming and cattle-breeding. Caucasus was one of the most ancient farming centres in Eurasia. Displayed in case 2 are objects dating back to 7 thousand years B.C. from the Transcaucasian territory donated to the Historical Museum by Georgian archaeologists: small concave-surfaced stone slabs – querns, pestles for grinding grain and stone hoes also found at the archaeological sites of farming settlements.
A large section of the room (case 3-7) introduces Neolithic economy and culture exhibiting things from the forest part of European Russia.
The most striking feature of Neolith and one of the fundamental inventions of humanity is earthenware made from puddle clay, water and various organic and mineral additions. Cases 3-5 feature earthenware fragments and whole vessels from the sites of the forest belt. The map with approximate designation of places where earthenware was found serves as a good backdrop for case 4.
The bottom shape – circular or oval – is also noteworthy. It was convenient to put such a pot in a fire ditch or bury it in cold sand at the riverside for long-drawn victuals conservation.
The surface of most vessels is embellished: pits coupled with prints are applied with a comb stamp (stamp specimens are displayed in the case). The sun image at the biggest vessel’s bottom testifies to the magic nature of those patterns. Most archaeologists believe that a certain set of earthenware types, manufacturing techniques and, above all, specific ornaments were peculiar to each ethnic group. It is for this reason that so much emphasis in the exposition is placed on earthenware as a historical source highlighting the origin, settlements and migration routes of human communities in different epochs. The prevalence of similarly shaped and decorated ceramics called «pit comb ware» on the vast expanse of the East-European forest belt testifies to the spread of kindred tribes pertaining to the most ancient Finno-Ugric peoples.
The case 7 displays the materials from East-European North illustrating the life, occupations and religious views of hunters and fishermen. Exhibited on the podium are stones axes shaped as a bear head that were emblems of power and serve as attributes of the forest master (the bear) cult. In centre case are objects attending the hunter’s burial. Among them is an idol figurine, one leg of it ending in an elk hoof. Hunting and fishing gave rise to corresponding ideas of patron-spirits represented as wood creatures or waterfowl.
cases 6, 8-12
The goods and chattels from woodland settlements of the East-European part – such as Nikolo-Perevoz on Dubna, Chernaya Gora (Black Mount), Shagara, Volosovo, Volodary in the Trans-Oka region – are on display in cases 6, 8-12. Some of them are multi-layer sites; they had existed since the early Neolith until the early Iron Age representing different archaeological cultures. Permanent colonies arc a sure evidence of the settled lifestyle of the population primarily engaged in hunting and fishing. Perfectly made implements and arms, decorations and worship items are the test of their high cultural level.
The Volosovo hoard (case 12) found not far from Murom, the Vladimir region, became world-famous. Most impressive are daggers and spearheads – the samples of highest skill in flint working.
The objects of case 13 come from the sites in Western Siberia and Evenkia where distinctive cultures were developing during the Late Stone Age.
In the second exposition belt one can sec copies of rock paintings from the shores of Angara, Onega Lake and the White Sea. Such images carved or incuse on stone are called “petroglyphs”. They are mainly religious symbols and descriptions of gods, heroes and mythological scenes. The petropglyphs arc very important for science – not only do they introduce us to the worldview of ancient hunters and fishermen; they also depict some realities of their everyday life such as traces left by a skier, a boat with oarsmen or a hunter hitting a seal with his harpoon.
Six thousand years ago humanity entered a new historical era: people learned how to mine and to work metal that since then became a major material for making essential things. This epoch is usually divided into two large periods: the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.