Dyuktai Cave and Complex - Siberian Precursors to the Americas?

Are the People from Dyuktai Siberia Ancestors of Clovis?

The mountainous terrain. Oimyakon district, Republic Sakha (Yakutia).
The mountainous terrain. Oimyakon district, Republic Sakha (Yakutia). Pro-syanov / Getty Images

Dyuktai Cave (also transliterated from the Russian as Diuktai, D'uktai, Divktai or Duktai) is an early Upper Paleolithic archaeological site in eastern Siberia, which was occupied between at least 17,000-13,000 cal BP. Dyuktai is the type of the Dyuktai complex, which is thought to be in some way related to some of the Paleoarctic colonists of the North American continent.

Dyuktai Cave is located along the Dyuktai River in the Aldan River drainage in Russia's Yakutia region also known as the Sakha Republic.

It was discovered in 1967 by Yuri Mochanov, who conducted excavations that same year. A total of 317 square meters (3412 square feet) has been excavated exploring site deposits both inside the cave and in front of it.

Site Deposits

The site deposits within the cave are up to 2.3 meters (7l.5 feet) in depth; outside the cave's mouth, ​the deposits reach 5.2 m (17 ft) in depth. The total length of occupation is not currently known, although it was originally thought to be 16,000-12,000 radiocarbon years before the present RCYBP (ca 19,000-14,000 calendar years BP [cal BP]) and some estimates extend it to 35,000 years BP. Archaeologist Gómez Coutouly has argued that the cave was only occupied for a brief period, or rather a series of brief periods, based on its fairly sparse stone tool assemblages.

There are nine stratigraphic units assigned to the cave deposits; strata 7, 8 and 9 are associated with the Dyuktai complex.

  • Horizon A (VIIa and upper VIII) is dated between 12,000-13,000 RCYBP
  • Horizon B (VIIb and lower unit of stratum VIII) is between 13,000-15,000 RCYBP
  • Horizon C (stratum VIIc and stratum IX, 15,000-16,000 RCYBP

Stone Assemblage at Dyuktai Cave

Most of the stone artifacts at Dyuktai Cave are waste from tool production, consisting of wedge-shaped cores and a few single-platform and radially flaked cores.

Other stone tools included bifaces, a wide variety of shaped burins, a few formal scrapers, knives and scrapers made on blades and flakes. Some of the blades were inserted into grooved bone hafts for use as projectiles or knives.

Raw materials include a black flint, usually in flat or tabular pebbles which might be from a local source, and a white/beige flint of an unknown source. Blades range between 3-7 cm long.

Dyuktai Complex

Dyuktai Cave is one of several sites which have been discovered since and are now assigned to the Dyuktai Complex in Yakutia, Trans-Baikal, Kolyma, Chukoka, and Kamchatka regions of eastern Siberia. The cave is among the youngest of the Diuktai culture sites, and part of the Late or Terminal Siberian Upper Paleolithic (ca 18,000-13,000 cal BP).

The culture's precise relationship with the North American continent is debated: but so is their relatedness to one another. Larichev (1992), for example, has argued that despite the variety, the similarity of artifact assemblage among the Dyuktai sites suggest the groups shared intra-regional cotraditions.


The precise dating of the Dyuktai complex is still somewhat controversial. This chronology is adapted from Gómez Coutouly (2016).

  • Early (35,000-23000 RCYBP): Ezhantsy, Ust'Mil' II, Ikhine II sites. Tools include wedge-shaped subprismatic and tortoise cores, burins, scrapers, perforators, and bifaces.
  • Middle (18,000-17,000 RCYBP): Nizhne and Verkhne-Troitskaya sites. Bifacially flaked points; dart points, pendants from pebbles, retouched blades and flakes, worked bone and ivory.
  • Late (14,000-12,000 RCYBP): Dyuktai cave, Tumulur, maybe Berelekh, Avdeikha, and Kukhtai III, Ushki Lakes, and Maiorych. Bifacially flaked stemmed points, leaf-shaped points and fragments, bifacial knives, scrapers and sandstone abraders; stone pendants and beads of various types.

Relationship to North America

The relationship between the Siberian Dyuktai sites and North America is controversial. Gomez Coutouly considers them to be the Asian equivalent of the Denali complex in Alaska, and perhaps ancestral to the Nenana and Clovis complexes.

Others have argued that Dyuktai is ancestral to Denali, but although the Dyuktai burins are similar to Denali burins, the Ushki Lake site is too late to be ancestral to Denali.


This article is part of the About.com guide to Upper Paleolithic, and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology