Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO
Altai Krai, Soloneshensky district
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Denisova Cave is the oldest inhabited cave in Siberia, and it is one of the most informative sites for the study of an ancient human culture and the surrounding natural environment, not only of North and Central Asia, but the entire Eurasian continent. The earliest archaeological materials obtained during the study of cave deposits are more than 300,000 years old.
Denisova Cave became world famous in 2010 when one of the leading international scientific journals “Nature” published the results of the genetic analysis of human fossils found in the cave - a fragment of the distal phalanx of the little finger of a 6-7 year old girl. Deciphering first the mitochondrial and then the nuclear DNA from this bone sample showed that it belongs to a previously unknown fossil man, which was named Denisovan after the place where the anthropological remains were found. Since then, Denisova Cave and scientific and research station of the same name at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences began to draw the attention of tourists, journalists and mass media, including one of the most famous popular scientific geographical magazines "National Geographic". Experts in the field of archeology, paleogenetics, paleoanthropology, geochronology and other disciplines from the world's leading scientific centers take part in the study of the cave.
Denisova Cave is located on the border of North and Central Asia in the northwestern part of the Altai Mountains in the valley of the upper reaches of the Anui River. The site is located in the Soloneshensky district of the Altai region, 7 km southeast of the village Tog-Altai on the right bank of the Anui River 1.8 km below the mouth of the left-bank tributary of the Karakol river.
The state protection of the mentioned site is provided by the Department of State Protection of Cultural Heritage Sites of the Altai Krai, which established the boundaries of the territory, a special regime of land use within the boundaries of the site and the subject of protection. The security zones which are to be considered as a buffer zone when the property is nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List have been approved.
Preparation of all mentioned documentation and materials for writing the Tentative List Application was carried out with the help of methodological and advisory assistance provided by the staff of the Federal Government Budgetary Institution of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, primarily by M.V. Shunkov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The normatively defined territory of the site includes all material elements and attributes that convey the potential Outstanding Universal Value of the site and form a unique symbiosis of cultures and historical eras in the space of North and Central Asia.
By the Russian Federation Government Decree No. 1131-r of 29 April 2021 the cultural (archaeological) heritage site of federal significance "Denisova Cave" was included in the list of especially valuable cultural heritage sites of the peoples of the Russian Federation, which demonstrates the recognition of the value of Denisova Cave at the Russian level.
Out of all the archaeological sites in the Altai and South Siberia, Denisova Cave stands out because it has been studied to the greatest extent. A combination of innovative methods of archaeology, stratigraphy, lithology, paleontology, geochronology and other related disciplines is used in the study of the cave. Largely due to such an integrated approach, the many-meter thickness of the Denisova Cave deposits, containing cultural remains of the period from the Early Middle Paleolithic to the ethnographic time, is now a reference section for the study of the ancient history of the region. The paleoanthropological findings from the Denisova Cave served as the basis for the creation of a new model of human formation of modern physical appearance.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Denisova Cave is located in the northwestern part of the Altai Mountain system in the valley of the Anui River. The entrance to the cave is exposed to the southwestern and western parts of the foot of Mountain Sosnovaya as part of the Anui Ridge. The slopes of the ridge in the vicinity of the cave are covered with birch-larch and birch-pine forests. The entrance to the cave is located in the ledge of the sheer wall of the southwestern slope of the mountain at a height of about 30 meters above the modern edge of the river.
In ancient times, a hidden karst cavity was formed inside the Anui Ridge, which under the influence of water flows gradually expanded and deepened. When the river valley descended, the cave opened to the world. Today the Anui River flows 30 meters below the entrance to the cave, at that time it approached directly to the base of the mountain range and periodically flooded the cavity. The entrance leads to the central chamber, that is connected to the East and South Galleries. These Galleries go deep into the limestone massif and are completely overlapped by loose deposits. The third Gallery overlooks the front entrance area. For some time, the cave remained uninhabited, and then for almost 300,000 years it became home - first to animals and then to mankind.
According to local legends, the cave got its name at the end of the 18th century, when for many years it became the refuge of the Old Believer hermit, Dyonisiy. To the Old Believers of nearby villages, he was a pastor, and they constantly visited him in his cave cell for blessing and advice. The Altai people call the cave Ayu-Tash (Bear Rock) and in their ancient legends they keep the memory that a powerful Black Shaman here lived, and he was able to turn into a huge bear. Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh noted a special energetic aura that is present in the humming cave void. He visited Denisova Cave during his 1926 Altai expedition. In his travel sketches a note is made: "Certain favorable feelings, which filled my consciousness during the visit to the cave, did not leave me for a very long time".
In 1977 Denisova Cave was opened as an archaeological site. Exploration work gave a rich archaeological material: fragments of ancient ceramic vessels, bone and bronze products, numerous stone implements of an ancient man. The found objects indicated that the cave has been inhabited since the Paleolithic period. From 1982 to the present time the staff of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been conducting research on the territory of Denisova Cave.
In the course of multidisciplinary research scientists established a unique sequence of ancient layers, through which the continuous development of material culture over the past 300 thousand years was traced. The cultural and chronological scale of the Denisova Cave is the most complete and lasting in the territory of North and Central Asia. The cave deposits contain exceptional evidence of the continuity of human settlement in this area up to the ethnographic time (17th-18th centuries).
Denisova Cave is a very promising site for comprehensive research of the ancient history of North and Central Asia. Further study of Pleistocene deposits will clarify the geological, archaeological, and climatic history of the region. The complex of data obtained from the cultural layers is an extremely valuable source for solving the most important issues of Eurasian paleolithic study and the problems of the origin of modern humans.
Studies have shown that the archaeological heritage site "Denisova Cave" meets two criteria (iii) and (v) for the assessment of Outstanding Universal Value – the key criteria for inclusion of the cultural heritage site on the Tentative List and then for the inscription on the World Heritage List.
Criterion (iii): "Denisova Cave" is a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared because anthropological findings from the cultural layers of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic (from ~300 to 20 thousand years ago) confirmed the independent development path of ancient man on the territory of North Asia. Paleogenetic studies have established that the distal phalanx of the little finger of a teenager and the left upper grinding tooth of a young man belong to a previously unknown to world science fossil man, which was named Denisovan after the place where the anthropological remains were found. For the first time in the world, a new group of ancient people is distinguished not by morphological criteria, but by the data of genetic research.
Analysis of the transcribed genome of a new group of ancient humans revealed their sister’s proximity to Neanderthals. A population of Denisovans existed in the Altai together with the most eastern group of Neanderthals. The results obtained show that in Eurasia during the Upper Pleistocene, there were at least two other forms of ancient humans along with humans of the modern physical type: the western, marked as Neanderthals, and the eastern, to which the Denisovans belong. Anthropological materials from deposits in the Eastern Gallery of the cave indicate that in the Middle Paleolithic, Denisovans coexisted with Neanderthals and interbred with them periodically.
The peculiarities of the morphology of the upper grinding teeth (6-8 teeth of the permanent row) of Denisovans indicate that they are characterized by an extremely conservative model of formation and confirm the existence of a special fossil human population in the Altai, different from Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis not only on the molecular-genetic, but also on the morphological level.
According to archaeological data, the methods and techniques of livelihood of the Denisovans did not concede, and in some respects surpassed the behavioral characteristics of a man of modern physical appearance, living at the same time with them in other territories.
The remains of Denisovans have so far been found in only one cave, but the level of their genetic diversity is higher than that of seven Neanderthals from different parts of Western and Central Europe, and lower than that of modern humans. Consequently, the Denisovan population may have been more numerous and more diverse than the Neanderthal population, and also had an exceptionally wide expansion, from North to East and South Asia.
Genetic studies have established the presence in the genome of modern inhabitants of islands in Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania from 3% to 6% of the genetic material of Denisovans, which includes genes that determine modern humans have dark skin, brown eyes and brown hair.
Comparison of the DNA of Tibetans and Denisovans revealed that genetically Tibetans are much closer to Denisovans than other modern humans, and the mechanism of the Tibetan adaptation to high-altitude conditions was triggered by genes inherited from the Denisovan. Traces of the genomic influence of Denisovans on adaptation to special environmental conditions have also been revealed in other populations of South, East, and Southeast Asia.
Thus, in 2010, for the first time, based on the decoded DNA from phalanx of the little finger that was found in the Pleistocene deposits of the Denisova Cave, a previously unknown subspecies of humans that was significantly different genetically from Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis was identified. The presence in the gene pool of modern mankind of genetic material inherited from Neanderthals and Denisovans indicates that Africa and Eurasia had their own unique cultural traditions and the formation of early forms of Homo sapiens, which contributed differently to the formation of anatomically modern humans.
At the moment, Denisova Cave is the only known and studied site where Denisovans, Neanderthals and people of modern anatomical type were active at one time. They did not displace or oppress each other but were genetically and culturally influenced by each other. Denisova Cave is unique because its research contributes to the solution of the following fundamental problems: periodization of the Eurasian Paleolithic, early prehistory of the mentioned region, transition from Middle to Upper Paleolithic on the territory of the Eurasian continent, development of cultural traditions in the early Upper Paleolithic in Eurasia, paleogenetic history of primitive man in this territory, anthropological appearance of the Eurasian Paleolithic population.
Criterion (v): Denisova Cave – is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change, because the most extended and time-continuous stratigraphic column of the Middle and Upper Pleistocene and Holocene, corresponding to the development of human culture and his natural environment from the Early Middle to the final stage of the Upper Paleolithic and throughout the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Middle Ages, that is, from 300 thousand years ago and virtually to the present day, has been studied in the cave.
Archaeological materials from Denisova Cave, reflecting a long process of gradual evolution of stone implements, testify to the formation in the Altai of one of the earliest Upper Paleolithic cultures in Eurasia, whose creators, according to anthropological and paleogenetic data, were Denisovans. According to their behavioral characteristics, they are close to humans of modern physical appearance, which came to the territory of Western Siberia not later than 45 thousand years ago. Along with that, the remains of humans of modern anatomical type were not found in Pleistocene deposits of this time in the cave and in other paleolithic sites of Altai, which allows us to correlate the formation of the Upper Paleolithic in the territory of North and Central Asia with the culture of Denisovans.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrityAuthenticity
The archaeological heritage site "Denisova Cave" has remained in a relatively good condition and fully meets the criterion of authenticity in terms of such attributes as form, materials and substances, use and function, location and setting. The authenticity of the site is confirmed by documentary evidence and scientific research.
The uniqueness of multilayer deposits in Denisova Cave lies in their good preservation and the possibility of clear stratification in the system of geological sediments, which allows us to determine the age of the artifacts they contain quite accurately.
Due to the good preservation of sediments and objects contained in them, in 1977 staff scientist of the Institute of History, Philology, and Philosophy of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR Ovodov N.D managed to identify the archaeological heritage site "Denisova Cave". The researcher laid exploratory excavations in the entrance area of the cave and in the depths of the central chamber, which revealed numerous archaeological materials from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. This fact served as the basis for stationary work in the cave by the Institute of History, Philology, and Philosophy of the Siberian Branch of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Complex research began in 1982 and continues at the present time under the leadership of Doctor of Historical Sciences, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences A.P Derevyanko and Doctor of Historical Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences M.V. Shunkov.
In decades of stationary research in the cave, loose sediments in the central chamber, on the pre-entrance site, and in the estuarial zone of the South and East Galleries were sequentially studied. The scale of the work can be assessed by the depth of the archaeological excavation, which is 6.5 meters in the central chamber and more than 8 meters in the East Gallery.
There are 22 layers in the central chamber, of which 8 belong to the Holocene epoch (from 11 thousand years ago to the present) and 14 to the Pleistocene epoch (from ~300 to 11 thousand years ago). The oldest findings from layer 22 are ~300 thousand years old and represent the early Middle Paleolithic. In layer 11 (50-35 thousand years ago) the earliest Upper Paleolithic objects appear. The bone remains of Denisovans were found both in the oldest culture-bearing layers and in the upper part of deposits containing stone implements and various jewels of the early Upper Paleolithic stage, which are by far the oldest on the territory of Eurasia.
The most important source for the reconstruction of the natural and climatic conditions in North and Central Asia in the Pleistocene are paleontological materials obtained in the course of many years of research in the cave. The ancient fauna is represented by the bone remains of large and medium-sized mammals belonging to 27 species, small mammals are represented by more than 40 species, the bone remains of birds belonging to 66 taxa, found also the bones of reptiles, amphibians and fish.
The floristic composition of pollen from the Pleistocene deposits of Denisova Cave is represented in the tree and shrub pollen group of 30 taxons. It is important to note that of the total list of dendroflora, 14 kinds do not appear in the modern flora of the Northwestern Altai. The floristic complex of herbaceous-shrubby vegetation consists of 55 kinds and reflects the distribution of plants of different ecological orientation. The greatest diversity of species is noted in representatives of the sunflower family. The group of spore plants is represented by 9 kinds.
In the process of studying the cultural deposits of the cave tens of thousands of artifacts belonging to different cultural and chronological stages of the Paleolithic and subsequent historical eras were discovered.
The human remains from the Denisova Cave currently number more than 20 bones and separate teeth. The first anthropological finding in the Pleistocene deposits of Denisova Cave was a milk tooth, discovered in 1984 in layer 22.1 of the central chamber and subsequently named Denisova 2. In 2000 an upper permanent tooth was found in layer 11.1 in the South Gallery (Denisova 4), in 2008 in layer 11.2 in the East Gallery a distal phalanx of the little finger was found (Denisova 3), and in 2010 in the lower part of layer 11.4 on the border with layer 12 fragments of the crown of the upper tooth were found (Denisova 8). The results of deciphering the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes from phalanx Denisova 3 and then from teeth Denisova 4, 8 and 2 in the laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) under the guidance of Professor S. Paabo showed that they belong to a previously unknown to science fossil man, named Denisovan. For the first time, a new group of people is distinguished not by morphological criteria, but by the data of genetic analysis.
In 2010-2012, anthropological remains of Neanderthals were found in deposits of the cave's East Gallery - a phalanx of the left little toe (Denisova 5), a morphologically indeterminate bone (Denisova 15) were extracted from layer 11.4, a phalanx of the third or fourth ray of the left hand (Denisova 9) and a bone fragment from a hybrid of a Neanderthal and a Denisovian (Denisova 11) were found in deposits of layer 12.3.
As a result of the latest research, it has been established that ancient human and animal DNA is preserved not only in bone remains, but also in loose Pleistocene sediments due to the unique temperature and humidity conditions in Denisova Cave.
Inside the Denisova Cave and on its pre-entrance site the remains of numerous household constructions in the form of pits for storing food, burial pits for ritual objects, hearths, wooden stake fences, dwellings of semi-dugout type belonging to the Early Bronze Age, Iron Age and Medieval cultures were found.
Such a variety of information and its introduction into science is due to the fact that from the very beginning the study of the Denisova Cave has been of a complex nature. Besides archaeologists, specialists of natural disciplines worked there: geologists, paleozoologists, paleobotanists, soil scientists and others. In many respects due to the interdisciplinary approach, the multimeter-long thickness of Denisova Cave deposits, containing cultural remains from the Early Middle Paleolithic to the ethnographic time, is a reference section for the study of the ancient human history on the territory of Northern and Central Asia. Geochronology, based on lithology, biostratigraphy, and absolute (radiocarbon and optical) dating, allows us to recognize Denisova Cave as the oldest Middle Paleolithic site in Siberia.
It is important to note that numerous results of the Denisova Cave research have been presented in a large number of scientific works in the leading highly ranked journals, such as Nature and Science, and have been actively cited.
Cultural heritage site "Denisova Cave" is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey the property’s significance.
At present, Denisova Cave is in a satisfactory state of preservation. The cave consists of a system of short sub-horizontal and inclined galleries of different sizes. Before the beginning of excavations, the entrance to the cave was an oval opening measuring 7 by 1.7 meters. In the process of excavations, the height of the entrance increased and now reaches 6 meters. The entrance leads to the main gallery up to 7 meters wide and about 10 meters long in the northwest direction, which opens at right angles to the central chamber of the cave. From the central chamber, one gallery, 9 meters long and 1 to 4.5 meters wide, extends southwestward, opening onto the pre-entrance site. Two narrow dark galleries - East and South, go in a southeasterly direction deep into the karst massif for 10 and 25 meters, respectively. They are completely covered with loose sediments. The total size of the cave is now about 300 square meters.
Despite ongoing research work, archaeologists mothballed sections of deposits in the central chamber and the East Gallery. There are 22 layers in the sediments of the central chamber and 17 in the East Gallery. The friable Holocene and Pleistocene deposits (down to the rocky continent) preserve unique information for the possibility of further study using the latest research methods.
The current state of the site is due not only to its thousands of years of history, but also to the history of its study. For almost 40 years, employees of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences in collaboration with leading national and foreign experts (Australia, Britain, Germany, USA, etc.) carry out a comprehensive study of the cave, which in turn led to sensational discoveries. In the future, it is planned to continue studying the cave deposits. Since the discovery of the cave in 1977 and to the present day on the territory of the site were conducted only scientific research, no economic activities were carried out.
Comparison with other similar properties
Denisova Cave is the oldest inhabited cave in Siberia, a unique site of the Paleolithic era which is studied at the highest level. Sensational anthropological findings from the paleolithic cultural layers of Denisova Cave confirmed the independent development path of ancient man on the territory of North Asia.
Caves are not so widely represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Most of them are cultural heritage sites. With an identical set of criteria (iii) and (v), the sites "Archaeological Site of Atapuerca" in Spain and "Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me’arot / Wadi el-Mughara Caves" in Israel were nominated to the List.
The archaeological findings on the Archaeological Site of Atapuerca in the north of Spain represent a unique source, the scientific study of which provides invaluable information about the appearance and lifestyle of human life on the territory of Europe, dating back to about 1 million years ago. The stone implements found in the study of the cave deposits belong to all stages of technological evolution, from the most primitive to the Bronze Age implements. Fossil human remains are considered exclusive. Among them are the bones of the oldest man in Europe, Homo antecessor, as well as Homo sapiens and Homo heidelbergensis. In 2013, DNA analysis of "Heidelberg man" from the cave Sima de los Huesos, obtained from a 400-thousand-year-old femur bone, showed similarities with mitochondrial DNA of the Denisovan (although the remains from Sima de los Huesos are traditionally considered to be close to Neanderthals). The time of divergence of Denisovans and humans from the Sima de los Huesos cave in Spain was estimated at 700 thousand years ago according to the DNA data.
There is a clear similarity between the study of the caves of Atapuerca in the north of Spain and Denisova Cave (a layer-by-layer study of the oldest cave deposits in which the most important artifacts for the study of the ancient history of mankind were found). The materials obtained during the research revealed previously unknown ancestral kinds of the genus Homo: Homo antecessor in the caves of Atapuerca and Homo altaiensis (Denisovan) in Denisova Cave.
Similar archaeological materials were found in a study of a cave complex in Israel, nominated to the World Heritage List under criteria (iii) and (v). The Nahal Me’arot and Wadi el-Mughara Caves, the caves of Tabun, Jamal, el-Wad and Skhul are located on the western slope of the Carmel range. The study of these sites revealed cultural layers up to 500 thousand years old. During 90 years of research, material evidence of five different cultural eras of the Early, Middle and Late Paleolithic (Shelian, Mugari, Moustiere, Orinyak, Ahmar and Natufian) was found. Currently, it is the only archaeological and cultural complex where fossil remains of Neanderthals and early anatomically modern humans from the same time period have been found, which reinforces the controversy around the disappearance of Neanderthals and the evolution of Homo sapiens. Convincing evidence of the existence of burials and early stone buildings of the period of transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to a society of cattlemen and farmers were found in the caves.
A large part of the caves represented on the UNESCO World Heritage List are the sites with many examples of ancient rock art.
In 1979, the wall paintings on the River Vézère (Montignac, southwestern France) were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The greatest archaeological, ethnological, anthropological and aesthetic interest are the rock paintings found in the Lascaux Cave, discovered in 1940. The hunting scenes, depicting about 100 animal figures, stand out for their richness of color and realism. Animals are represented in many caves with rock paintings in the Franco-Cantabrian region: mainly horses, bison, bison, deer and rams. The Lascaux Cave is one of the first Paleolithic caves to be dated by radiocarbon analysis of charcoal found in the sediments. After the cave was closed to the general public due to the worsening problem of the preservation of cave art, the French National Geographic Institute (IGN) in the late 1960s carried out a stereophotogrammetric survey of all the painted surfaces of the cave. Later, a concrete structure was built, inside which the exact scanned images were reproduced. A copy of Lascaux, called Lascaux II, is located 200 meters from the original cave.
Another example of Paleolithic painting is the cave art of the Cave of Altamira in the north of Spain. The cave itself was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985. In 2008, 17 caves with cave art dating from the Paleolithic period were added to the original site. This ensemble represents the Paleolithic cave art that spread across Europe from the Urals to the Iberian Peninsula from 35 to 11 thousand years ago. The Cave of Altamira remains the most famous at present. The style of most of the paintings belongs to the Franco-Cantabrian style, which is characterized by the realism of the figures depicted. Polychrome paintings and drawings in black, red and ochre show animals (bison, horses, boars, etc.) and people, as well as abstract and non-figurative images. In 1977 the cave was closed for restoration and opened in 1982 for limited visits (up to 20 people per day). The cave was completely closed to the public in 2002 after the discovery of mold on the paintings in the main chamber.
A World Heritage Site similar in some respects to those in France and Spain is located in another cultural and historical region of the world. The Cueva de las Manos Cave (Santa Cruz province, southern Argentina) contains a collection of cave paintings ranging in age from 13,000 to 9,500 years. Cueva de las Manos got its name, which translates as "Cave of the Hands," from the stencilled outlines of human hands found there. Mostly left hands are stencilled and the hands of teenage boys. In the cave you can also see images of guanacos, which are still typical for this region, as well as hunting scenes. To determine the age of the images, bone tubes found in the cave were used. Those bone tubes were used to apply paint to the wall. The people responsible for the paintings may have been the ancestors of the historic hunter-gatherer communities of Patagonia found by European settlers in the 19th century.
After considering several foreign examples of caves and cave complexes inscribed on the World Heritage List, the following conclusion can be drawn. In some parameters (diversity of cultural layers, the presence of archaeological and paleontological materials) the nominated site is similar to the caves of Spain and Israel. The distinctive feature of Denisova Cave is that thanks to a comprehensive approach in the study of cave deposits, it was possible to identify a previously unknown population of ancient people - Denisovans. This discovery confirmed the independent development path of ancient man on the territory of North Asia. In addition, 22 layers of cave deposits containing artifacts were identified. The obtained materials allow us to form a continuous stratigraphic scale, which covers almost 300 thousand years of human history (from the Paleolithic to the ethnographic present). The study of paleontological materials contributed to the determination of climatic features, varieties of flora and fauna on the territory of Northern and Central Asia in the Middle and Upper Pleistocene.
In the list of Russian World Heritage Sites there are no caves as an independent site (even as natural heritage sites). In addition, there are no archaeological sites in their pure form, but archaeological components are represented in many sites: "Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex", "Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent", "Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings", "Kremlin and Red Square". Archaeology is most brightly expressed in the following World Heritage sites.
Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex, located 180 km south of Kazan on the left bank of the Kuybyshev Reservoir, includes an archaeological cultural layer up to 5 meters deep and the remains of stone and brick buildings of public and religious purposes of the 13th-14th centuries. The earliest settlement identified in the territory of the complex is dated by archaeologists to the 5th-7th centuries (the time of pre-Bulgarian foundation). Since the 7th-8th centuries, a people of Turkic origin, the Bulgars, migrated from the northern part of the Khazar Kaganate to the Middle Volga and the lower Kama. They interacted with local nationalities and formed a state, Volga Bulgaria, with its capital in the city of Bolgar. In 922, the Bulgars converted to Islam, and Volga Bulgaria became the northernmost point of distribution of this world religion as the state religion. Bolgar experienced a new prosperity and great development from 1242 to 1246, as the first capital of the Golden Horde, and then as a major Golden Horde city. Gradually, however, the growing north of Kazan (the capital of the Kazan Khanate) began to take precedence.
The main archaeological sites of the Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex are the ruins of the Cathedral Mosque "Quadrangle" (end of the 13th century), Small Minaret of the second mosque, more than 10 meters high (second half of the 14th century), Mausoleums of noble Bulgarian families of the early 14th century (cube building with a central dome).
The Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex has been inscribed on the World Heritage List under criteria (ii) and (vi). The Bolgar reflects the interaction of several successive cultural traditions and the interchange of different civilizations - Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Slavic, and is also a testimony to the early and most northern Muslim enclave.
Archaeological sites are included in the serial World Heritage site "Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings", including the cultural layer of the 10th-17th centuries, 7-8 meters deep, covering an area of about 347 hectares. Anaerobic conditions inside the layer allowed a variety of organic materials to be preserved.
Most of the historical sites are associated with the Novgorod Republic (12th-15th centuries), which itself was a unique phenomenon of medieval Russia. They are located in the center and some outlying areas. In Novgorod itself there is the district of Saint Sophia, including the Kremlin with its 15th-century fortifications (reinforced in the 17th century), the church of St. Sophia of the mid-11th century and other monuments of architecture of the 12-19th centuries. There are monuments in the commercial district, including many of the oldest churches in the town, such as the Church of the Transfiguration, decorated with frescoes in the end of the 14th century by Theophanes the Greek. There are also four religious sites from the 12th and 13th centuries outside the old town, including the famous Saviour Church on Nereditsa. The richness and diversity of the historical monuments of Novgorod made it possible to identify criteria (ii), (iv), and (vi) as of Outstanding Universal Value of the site.
The World Heritage Site "Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent", located in the south of the Republic of Dagestan, represents an archaeological value. It owes its rich history to its strategic position, along the travel route between Europe and the Middle East. The material evidence that Derbent played a defensive role date back to the 7th-8th centuries BC. Archaeological excavations from the second half of the 1970s established that Derbent has almost 2,000 years of uninterrupted history as the oldest settlement in Russia and one of the oldest in the region. Evidence was found of a fortified settlement in the region of the citadel during the 3rd century BCE and 4th century CE, which was confirmed by historical documents (Greek-Roman authors knew this settlement by the name of Albanian gate and meanwhile the ancient Armenian authors called it the Chol/Chor).
Derbent was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List under criteria (iii) and (iv). The site has largely maintained its original form and provides impressive evidence of the city’s greatness and power in different historic periods over 15 centuries – Arab, Seljuk, Mongol, Timurid and Safavid periods until the 19th century when it became part of the Russian Empire. Moreover, the ancient city of Derbent and its defence structures are the most significant section of the strategic defence systems designed and built in the Sasanian Empire along their northern border, which retained its strategic importance throughout the Middle Ages and the New Age. The Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent covers 37.658 ha.
The archaeological components within the above-mentioned World Heritage sites emphasize the long history of their development and formation. Ruined remains of structures, cultural layers and artifacts dated by archaeologists to the Bronze Age or the Middle Ages enhance the Outstanding Universal Value of the sites. But in the history of human development these epochs occupy the late and the shortest temporal stage. The findings and cultural layers of the Denisova Cave cover a period of 300 thousand years, in contrast to the sites of Kazan, Derbent and Novgorod, the chronological framework of which does not exceed 2-3 thousand years.
In terms of time Denisova cave is "close" to the site "Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea," which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2021. Onega paintings are one of the largest centers of Neolithic cave art in Europe, which dates back to about 4500-3500 BC. The site contains 4,500 petroglyphs located on 33 sites within two parts: 22 sites on the shores of Lake Onega, 11 sites on the shores of the White Sea. The rock art figures at Lake Onega mostly represent birds, animals, half human and half animal figures as well as shapes which may be interpreted as demon, burbot and otter. The petroglyphs of the White Sea are mostly composed of carvings depicting marine and forest hunting scenes including their related equipment as well as animal and human footprints.
Petroglyphs of Lake Onega and the White Sea, as well as Denisova Cave are of Outstanding Universal Value under criterion (iii). The archaeological sites associated with these rock paintings are an exceptional record of the lifestyle and beliefs of the population of the pit-comb ceramics culture during the Neolithic period. Petroglyphs are also a unique source of data, presenting a holistic image of the Neolithic period in Northern Fennoscandia.
Relatively similar sites as regards their chronological framework are presented in the Tentative List. Petroglyphs of Sikachi-Alyan represent drawings of masks, animals, birds, snakes, boats, holes (pits and concentric circles), anthropomorphic images, dated to the 12th millennium B.C. - the first half of the 1st millennium AD (Mesolithic (Early Neolithic), Neolithic, Early Iron Age and Early Middle Ages). Petroglyphs are drawn mainly on basalt boulders and rock outcrops of the coastal line. The process of study of the rock paintings gives the opportunity to trace the evolution of the art of ancient Amur tribes. Petroglyphs are also the most valuable source of the cognition of history and culture of the indigenous peoples in Priamurye. In the history of the study about 300 paintings were found, but no more than 160 have remained to this day.
Archaeological monuments are also presented within the Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex, whose Outstanding Universal Value meets criteria (ii), (iv), (v), (vi). Its natural and cultural features have shaped a unique appearance with chalk cliffs and divas, traces of industrialization, cave temples, early medieval Khazarremains, Bronze Age mounds, Prehistoric settlements, and hunting sites.
The most striking Paleolithic monument of Divnogorye is Divnogorye 9 (ancient horse kill site). The monument dates from the Late Paleolithic period (14-13 thousand years ago) and represents an accumulation of a large amount of wild horse bones. Currently, it is the only known monument with evidence of repeated episodes of horse hunting in Russia. Along with the Divnogorye 9, the most representative archaeological sites that allow us to trace the entire ancient history of the region are: Mesolithic settlement, a Neolithic and Bronze Age site, Bronze Age mound groups and an early Iron Age settlement. The above-mentioned archaeological monuments bear exceptional testimony of the continuity of human occupation of Divnogorye until the early Middle Ages when this area became a part of the Khazar Khaganate.
In addition, on the territory of the Divnogorye Historical and Cultural Complex there are six worship caves and cave complexes. They are cut down in the chalky massif and include cave churches and chapels, household facilities, cells, crypts, and extensive galleries.
The most similar to Denisova Cave is the site of the Tentative List "Rock Painting of Shulgan-Tash Cave" (Republic of Bashkortostan). Four characteristics are present in the cave that are quite rare: antiquity, richness, quality of the rock paintings, and the duration of the cultural tradition. Rock Painting of Shulgan-Tash Cave, according to modern data, are the oldest collection of cave paintings on the territory of Eastern Europe and North Asia. The age of the paintings ranges from 44 thousand to 14,5 thousand years ago. Radiocarbon dating of cultural deposits containing traces of drawings and fragments of colorful paintings, refer to the interval of 14-19 thousand years ago. It is the only cave with rock paintings in Northern Eurasia that has reliable dates of Pleistocene age. The archaeological context shows the connection between Upper Paleolithic archaeological findings and rock art (palettes, pieces of ochre, drawing implements, traces of ritual activities and various offerings have been found in the cultural layer). About 200 paintings were found in the four chambers of the cave within 200-300 meters of the entrance.
A comparison between the Tentative List sites and the UNESCO World Heritage List sites showed that the archaeological component is presented in many of the sites. The chronological framework of the Denisova Cave (Middle Paleolithic) has analogues with caves in Spain, Israel and France. Among Russian World Heritage sites, Denisova Cave and Shulgan-Tash Cave have the greatest similarity. The characteristic distinctive feature of the nominated site is the comprehensive representation of information about human life, flora, fauna, and climate of North Asia during the Middle Paleolithic period. In addition, the data on a new population of fossil humans, different from Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis, has not been recorded in the study of Russian World Heritage sites. The main features of Denisova Cave are not associated with rock art, as most similar sites from the UNESCO lists, which favorably enhances its outstanding universal value.
It should be noted that the presence of foreign and Russian analogues in a number of parameters of Denisova Cave, the comprehensive nature and its unique features allow us to call this site exceptional. The initial comparative study has shown that the combination of parameters of Denisova Cave has no direct analogues in the Tentative List and the UNESCO World Heritage List and has the necessary potential to include the archaeological heritage site "Denisova Cave" on the Tentative List. With further progress, Denisova Cave may become the first cultural heritage site in the Siberian Federal District to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Additional evidence of the site's value and the necessity of its inclusion on the Tentative List are indicated in an article by the Secretariat of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, published in 2019 in a special issue of the Bulletin of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO "Russia – UNESCO: 65 years together". The article focuses on the prospective increase in the Russian presence on the UNESCO World Heritage List by expanding the geographical and species diversity of nominated sites. Analysis of Russian cultural heritage sites directly confirm the existence of gaps in the nomination of archaeological sites, especially caves, to the World Heritage List.