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Wari brewed beer with pepper berries. Donna Nash

 

The Wari empire, an ancient Peruvian civilization that predated the Inca, made advances in agriculture, art, architecture, and warfare. They also drank a ton of beer.

According to archaeologists, Wari breweries—largely managed by women—played a major role in spreading the empire’s influence across diverse communities throughout Peru during its height between 450 and 1,000 C.E.

“We’re trying to understand how Wari civilization sustained itself for so long,” says Ryan Williams, an archaeologist at the Field Museum in Chicago. At their peak, Wari controlled a strip of land in modern-day Peru between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific coast. It stretched the same length as the distance between Jacksonville, Florida, and New York City. While the empire collapsed before European colonizers arrived in South America, they had an early influence on the development of the Inca—Williams compares it to the Greeks settling in Italy and helping give rise to the Roman Empire.

Because Wari people never had contact with Europeans and didn’t have their own written language, much of what we know about them comes from archaeological records. Williams says it wasn’t until 1950 that archaeologists were able to identify the Wari capital city, which allowed them to understand the scope of the empire. Now, researchers have excavated sites hundreds of miles away, and one thing has stood out: breweries—they’re everywhere. Williams’ team’s study, published this past Thursday in Sustainability, focuses on one at Cerro Baúl, a town at the southern edge of the empire hundreds of miles from the capital.

Williams says his team was interested in how Wari created a unique culture around beer to unify otherwise disparate groups of people throughout their territory. It’s a classic case of bringing people together through drinking and merriment, but scaled way, way up.

“Institutions around beermaking played a role in creating the glue that binds societies together,” Williams says.

Civilizations began producing alcoholic beverages, in some cases, before they created written languages. Archaeologists believe early hominids first got a taste for booze by eating fruits that had fallen from trees and naturally fermented over time. In 2018, researchers unearthed 13,000 year-old mortars from a cave in Israel that suggested humans were even making beer before they cultivated cereal crops for bread.

Archaeologists have found evidence of fermented beverage production in sites around the globe, and most of these processes are believed to have sprung up independently from each other. From rice wine in China to barley beer in Iran, it seemed you weren’t a real civilization until you had your own proverbial liquor label.

The Wari variety was chicha: a slowly brewed, beer-like fermented beverage typically made from corn that’s still produced today in South America. The brewery at Cerro Baúl made it for four centuries, surviving any environmental or social problems that may have arisen to become what Williams calls the best-preserved Wari brewery found to date. Brewers would produce 1,500 to 2,000 liters of the stuff at a time and throw multi-day, community-wide drinking festivals to consume it.

The team believes that these breweries were so resilient because they produced their own materials instead of importing them from a central capital. By completing a chemical analysis of pottery fragments found at Cerro Baúl, they found that the clay came from local sources while still retaining common Wari iconography.

The chemical analysis was also able to find tiny traces of biomarkers on the pottery associated with chicha de molle, a specific type of chicha made from fermented pepper berries. Excavators also found remnants of discarded pepper berries that had previously been used for brewing. While today’s chicha is usually corn-based, the majority of samples analyzed at Cerro Baúl are the pepper berry variety. Williams says this wasn’t a coincidence: pepper berry trees can survive droughts, making them ideal for the wide range of environments that the Wari empire would’ve encompassed.

Williams says the pepper berry is a common ingredient in most chicha brewing practices, along with the pottery the chicha would be served in, became the Wari brand. The envy of marketing departments everywhere, the beer was cohesive enough to communicate a shared political experience but adaptable enough for communities to sustainably produce it for centuries.

“Even in environmentally bad times, [Wari] could continue to kind of maintain this interaction with their population through this production of beer,” Williams says.

But, of course, researchers couldn’t be sure until they tried making the beer themselves. That’s where Donna Nash, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, got to unleash the beermaker within: She needed to reproduce the chicha to provide something to compare with the biomarkers found in the pottery fragments. She also wanted to see if Wari would’ve been able to make chicha at a smaller, household scale, which would’ve made the process even more accessible and, therefore, more widespread.

Nash worked with a local woman for about a month, who taught her how to brew both the corn and pepper berry chicha varieties using a process very similar to how Wari would’ve done it. She then compared the final product and the materials used to what the team found at the archaeological site.

“Making molle, you can actually do it in a single day,” Nash says. They first had to pick and winnow pepper berries that were ripe enough to have turned a caramel color. Then, they put the berries in a pot of boiling water and allowed it to steep like tea, taste-testing it every so often for optimal sweetness. They drained the berries out with cheesecloth and allowed the steeped water to sit in a cool, dark place for about five days.

“People who were brewing the chicha were probably also making thin, gauzy textiles to do the straining,” Nash says, though fabrics made out of organic material in archaeological ruins typically decay before they’re excavated. Some scholars, she says, have suggested that the relatively low-commitment pepper berry chicha brewing process could have been adopted by individual households, cementing Wari identity beyond the breweries.

The research wouldn’t have been complete without tasting the chicha. Nash says it’s surprisingly sweet, more like a cider than, say, a craft beer—there are no hops, and boiling the berries releases pockets of sugary resin. Whatever the taste, Nash and the rest of the team’s research suggests that chicha was instrumental in keeping the Wari empire together for so long.

“If you’re a little tipsy, most people are friendlier. And the experience of drinking together certainly does make those social bonds,” Nash says. “Also, we can’t ignore the way that ritual beliefs and behaviors are embedded in a lot of other things that these folks would have been doing.”

Archaeologists excavating civilizations around the globe have found that alcohol wasn’t just a way for our ancestors to get buzzed—in many cases, it occupied a significant place in society. Beer and wine were present in myths and offerings to the gods in Greece, and Rome, and were even used to pay the workers who built Ancient Egypt’s pyramids. Nash says that even when her team began research at Cerro Baúl, they performed a ceremonial offering to the land with beer in order to respect local traditions.

John W. Arthur, an anthropology professor at the University of South Florida, wrote in a piece for Anthropology Now, “Beer binds people together and serves to reinforce social hospitality and communality during ceremonial and everyday activities.”

Williams says archaeologists have yet to find Wari breweries that were still in use after the empire collapsed, which he believes points to their crucial role in fostering connections between what would have otherwise been politically fragmented groups.

“When the Wari state collapses, in these areas there are no big brewing facilities left,” he says. “People tend to start to move up into small, fortified hilltop villages, they’re starting to raid against each other.”

Nash says the research speaks to how seemingly small features of a society can help hold it together. Pepper berries could be easily propagated and grown throughout differing environments in Peru, and household chicha was simple enough to make in small batches without the need for too much fuel to brew it. Nash says this wasn’t a coincidence, and that the Wari were aware of how adaptable (and therefore influential) this practice could be for communities that would’ve otherwise had little in common with them.

“It shows us that local sourcing based on large shared ideas can provide the sustainable resources for political unification over very long periods of time,” Williams says.

Were Wari so successful because being constantly tipsy off homemade beer helped them get along better? Probably not—this research suggests beer may have been more potent as a cultural concept rather than an alcohol. But a few Peruvian brewskis couldn’t have hurt.

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Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world.

THIS IS A DRONE PHOTOGRAPH OF EXCAVATIONS AT GADACHRILI GORA SITE IN REPUBILC OF GEORGIA.
Photo by Stephen Batiuk

 

Excavations in the Republic of Georgia by the Gadachrili Gora Regional Archaeological Project Expedition (GRAPE), a joint undertaking between the University of Toronto (U of T) and the Georgian National Museum, have uncovered evidence of the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world.
The discovery dates the origin of the practice to the Neolithic period around 6000 BC, pushing it back 600-1,000 years from the previously accepted date.
The earliest previously known chemical evidence of wine dated to 5400-5000 BC and was from an area in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Researchers now say the practice began hundreds of years earlier in the South Caucasus region on the border of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.
Excavations have focused on two Early Ceramic Neolithic sites (6000-4500 BC) called Gadachrili Gora and Shulaveris Gora, approximately 50 kilometres south of the modern capital of Tbilisi. Pottery fragments of ceramic jars recovered from the sites were collected and subsequently analyzed by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania to ascertain the nature of the residue preserved inside for several millennia.
The newest methods of chemical extraction confirmed tartaric acid, the fingerprint compound for grape and wine as well as three associated organic acids – malic, succinic and citric – in the residue recovered from eight large jars. The findings are reported in a research study this week in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“We believe this is the oldest example of the domestication of a wild-growing Eurasian grapevine solely for the production of wine,” said Stephen Batiuk, a senior research associate in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations and the Archaeology Centre at U of T, and co-author of the study published in PNAS.
“The domesticated version of the fruit has more than 10,000 varieties of table and wine grapes worldwide,” said Batiuk. “Georgia is home to over 500 varieties for wine alone, suggesting that grapes have been domesticated and cross-breeding in the region for a very long time.”
GRAPE represents the Canadian component of a larger international, interdisciplinary project involving researchers from the United States, Denmark, France, Italy and Israel. The sites excavated by the U of T and Georgian National Museum team are remnants of two villages that date back to the Neolithic period, which began around 15,200 BC in parts of the Middle East and ended between 4500 and 2000 BC in other parts of the world.
The Neolithic period is characterized by a package of activities that include the beginning of farming, the domestication of animals, the development of crafts such as pottery and weaving, and the making of polished stone tools.
“Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine,” said Batiuk. “This methodology for identifying wine residues in pottery was initially developed and first tested on a vessel from the site of Godin Tepe in central western Iran, excavated more than 40 years ago by a team from the Royal Ontario Museum led by fellow U of T researcher T. Cuyler Young. So in many ways, this discovery brings my co-director Andrew Graham and I full circle back to the work of our professor Cuyler, who also provided some of the fundamental theories of the origins of agriculture in the Near East.
“In essence, what we are examining is how the Neolithic package of agricultural activity, tool-making and crafts that developed further south in modern Iraq, Syria and Turkey adapted as it was introduced into different regions with different climate and plant life,” Batiuk said. “The horticultural potential of the south Caucasus was bound to lead to the domestication of many new and different species, and innovative ‘secondary’ products were bound to emerge.”
The researchers say the combined archaeological, chemical, botanical, climatic and radiocarbon data provided by the analysis demonstrate that the Eurasian grapevine Vitis vinifera was abundant around the sites. It grew under ideal environmental conditions in early Neolithic times, similar to premium wine-producing regions in Italy and southern France today.
“Our research suggests that one of the primary adaptations of the Neolithic way of life as it spread to Caucasia was viniculture,” says Batiuk. “The domestication of the grape apparently led eventually led to the emergence of a wine culture in the region.”
Batiuk describes an ancient society in which the drinking and offering of wine penetrates and permeates nearly every aspect of life from medical practice to special celebrations, from birth to death, to everyday meals at which toasting is common.
“As a medicine, social lubricant, mind-altering substance, and highly valued commodity, wine became the focus of religious cults, pharmacopeias, cuisines, economics, and society throughout the ancient Near East,” he said.
Batiuk cites ancient viniculture as a prime example of human ingenuity in developing horticulture, and creative uses for its byproducts.
“The infinite range of flavors and aromas of today’s 8,000-10,000 grape varieties are the end result of the domesticated Eurasian grapevine being transplanted and crossed with wild grapevines elsewhere over and over again,” he said. “The Eurasian gravepine that now accounts for 99.9 per cent of wine made in the world today, has its roots in Caucasia.”

 

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Original Article:

Independent
By Ian Johnston, July3,2017

potato’ dating back about 10,900 years have been discovered in Utah.
The “well-preserved starch granules” – discovered in cracks in rocks used to grind up the potatoes – are the oldest evidence of cultivation of the plant in North America, researchers said.
This technique has been used to find the earliest known use of several species, including oats found in southern Italy dating to 32,600 years ago, 23,000-year-old barley and wheat discovered in Israel, and beans and yams from China dated to between 19,500 and 23,000 years ago.
The potato starch was embedded into stone tools found in Escalante, Utah, an area once known to early European settlers as “Potato Valley”.
The ‘Four Corners’ potatoes, Solanum jamesii, were eaten by several Native American tribes, including the Apache, Navajo and Hopi.
However most potatoes eaten around the world today are all descended from one species, Solanum tuberosum, which was domesticated in the South American Andes more than 7,000 years ago. It has been bred into thousands of different types since then.
The Four Corners potato, which may be the first example of a domesticated plant in the American West, could be used to make the current potato crop more resilient to drought and disease, it is believed.
Professor Lisbeth Louderback, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum of Utah and a senior author of a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said: “This potato could be just as important as those we eat today, not only in terms of a food plant from the past, but as a potential food source for the future.
“The potato has become a forgotten part of Escalante’s history. Our work is to help rediscover this heritage.”
S. jamesii is also highly nutritious with twice the amount of protein, zinc and manganese and three times the calcium and iron content as S. tuberosum.
Grown in ideal conditions in a greenhouse, a single “mother” tuber can produce 125 progeny tubers in six months.
Early European visitors to the Escalante area remarked on the potatoes.
Captain James Andrus wrote in August 1866: “We have found wild potatoes growing from which the valley takes its name.”
And a soldier, John Adams, wrote in the same year: “We gathered some wild potatoes which we cooked and ate … they were somewhat like the cultivated potato, but smaller.”

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Original article:

News.psu.edu

A’ndrea Elyse Messer
April 10, 2017

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Reconstructed food webs from the Ancestral Puebloan southwestern United States show the complexity and interconnectedness of humans, other animals, crops and the environment, in an area of uncertain climate and resources, according to researchers, who think climate change and human decisions then, may shed light on future human choices.

“As southwestern archaeologists, we know that Ancestral Puebloan people were intrinsically connected to the environment,” said Stefani Crabtree, postdoctoral fellow in human behavioral ecology in the Department of Anthropology, Penn State. “But, most food webs have omitted humans.”

Traditionally, food webs, while they map the interaction of all the animals and plants in an area, usually do not emphasize the human component. Crabtree and colleagues created a digital food web that captures all categories of consumers and consumed, can be defined for specific time periods and can also represent food webs after major food sources or predators disappear from the area. If an area suddenly becomes devoid of deer or humans or corn, for example, a food web of that situation can show where predators went to find prey, or which prey thrived for lack of a predator.

These knockout food webs — webs missing a specific predator or prey — show the changes and pressures on the food sources substituted for the missing ones, or the changes that occur when pressure is removed by removing a major consumer. The researchers report the results of their study today (Apr. 10) in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“When people show up in the area around A.D. 600 they bring corn,” said Crabtree. “It takes a while for critters to get used to it, but eventually, everything that eats vegetation, eats corn and prefers it.”

Humans bringing corn into an area is a major disruption of the existing food web. Planting corn means clearing fields to displace whatever plants and animals were there, creating a high-energy plant source of food and switching plant eaters to the preferred higher-calorie food source.

In the American Southwest, the Ancestral Puebloan people eventually preyed on their deer population enough so that they deer were no longer a reliable source of food. To compensate for this, they began to domesticate turkeys for food. Turkeys need to be fed corn if they are captive and that competes with corn for human consumption. At this time, corn made up 70 to 80 percent of Ancestral Puebloans’ food and so feeding turkeys altered the food web.

To create the food web, the team identified all the common, noninvasive species in the area. They then added species that were found in archaeological sites, but were absent from the modern lists. In some food webs, components are identified by their function, so all humming birds are considered flying pollinators, but in this case each type of humming bird received its own place in the web, linked to what it ate and what, if anything, ate it. This produced a very complicated web, but supplied exceptional redundancy.

 

“In the insect world it is harder to get at the data,” said Crabtree. “We have not been able to get at good databases so we aggregate at the functional level— pollinators or bloodsuckers for example.”

The exception to individual web entries then are invertebrates — insects, spiders, snails, etc. — that were classified by their function. Invertebrates are organized to the level of order and then grouped by function. With insects, for example, the researchers would group butterflies and moths that pollinated and sipped nectar, together in one group.

The overall food web had 334 nodes representing species or order-level functional groups with 11,344 links between predator and prey.

The researchers realize that there are differences in the environment between now and the Ancestral Puebloan period, but many things, such as pinon-juniper woodlands and sage flats are the same. Enough similarity exists for this approach to work.

The team did not produce just one overall food web, but also food webs corresponding to three archaeological locations and three time periods of Ancestral Pueblo occupation in the area — Grass Mesa Pueblo for Pueblo I, Albert Porter Pueblo for Pueblo II and Sand Canyon Pueblo for Pueblo III. They began with using archaeological assemblages from these sites incorporating all human prey and all human predators into the food web. Then they included the prey of the primary prey of humans and then predators of these human-prey species. Prey, in this case, includes animals, insects and plants.

When creating knockout food webs, the researchers included only those species that were found in reasonable quantities in the archaeological assemblages at those times.

“Knockout food webs are one of the best ways to understand how people interact with the environment,” said Crabtree. “Because we can remove something, predator or prey, and see what would happen.”

When major changes in climate variables such as drought, heat and lack of snowpack are factored in, the balance in the food web may become unstable. When food becomes scarce, most mobile creatures, animals and insects move to another location. During the time of the Ancestral Puebloans, this was possible and eventually, these people moved to the area of the Rio Grande in New Mexico and other places in New Mexico and Arizona.

“We didn’t have a long-term plan during the 600 years of Ancestral Pueblo habitation in the Mesa Verde region,” said Crabtree. “We don’t have a long-term plan today either. We don’t even have a four-year plan. Some people are pushing us to look closely at climate change.”

In the past, people migrated, said Crabtree. Unless we figure out better strategies, where are we going to migrate out to? We do not have a place to go, she said.

What people plant and eat has a great effect on the environment and on ecosystems. In the end, those choices will impact human survival, according to the researchers.

This work is part of a collaboration of researchers creating resolved food webs from a variety of places. Crabtree believes that she can compare this project to others that include humans in other geographical areas to help understand ecosystems with humans in them.

Also working on this project were Lydia J.S. Vaughn, graduate student, energy and resources group, University of California, Berkeley; and Nathan T. Crabtree, U.S. Forest Services.

The National Science Foundation and the Chateaubriand Fellowship funded this research.

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Original Article:

Livescience.com

By Laura  Geggel

 

A previously overlooked inky inscription on a pottery shard found in Israel calls for the delivery of more wine, according to a new study, showing that not much has changed in 2,600 years for humanity, at least when it comes to wetting our whistles.

The pottery fragment — called an ostracon, or an ink-inscribed shard — was found in 1965 at the desert fortress of Arad in Israel. The shard was in poor condition, but researchers were able to date it to around 600 B.C., right before Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, destroyed the kingdom of Judah.

After discovering the shard, researchers noticed an ink inscription on its front, which begins with a blessing of Yahweh (a Hebrew name for God), then describes money transfers. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have extensively studied this inscription, so researchers were taken aback when they found the overlooked message on the ostracon’s backside.

While its front side has been thoroughly studied, its back was considered blank,” study co-principal investigator Arie Shaus, a doctoral student of applied mathematics and archaeology at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel, said in a statement.

Revealing hidden text
The research team used multispectral imaging, a technique that uses different frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum to capture data from an image. Study co-researcher Michael Cordonsky, a physicist at TAU, noticed the scribbled note on the ostracon’s backside.

“To our surprise, three new lines of text were revealed.” Shaus said.

Using the results from the multispectral imaging, the team deciphered 50 characters making up 17 words on the back of the shard, which had been on display at the Israel Museum for more than 50 years.

“The content of the reverse side implies it is a continuation of the text on the front side,” study co-principal investigator Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement.

Send wine
The newly discovered and translated inscription says, “If there is any wine, send … If there is any-thing (else) you need, send (= write me about it). And if there is still … gi[ve] them (an amount of) Xar out of it. And Ge’alyahu has taken a bat of sparkling (?) wine.”

“The new inscription begins with a request for wine, as well as a guarantee for assistance if the addressee has any requests of his own,” Shaus said. “It concludes with a request for the provision of a certain commodity to an unnamed person, and a note regarding a ‘bath,’ an ancient measurement of wine, carried by a man named Ge’alyahu.”

The note is “an administrative text, like most of the Arad inscriptions,” study co-researcher Anat Mendel-Geberovich, an archaeologist at TAU, said in the statement. “Its importance lies in the fact that each new line, word and even a single sign is a precious addition to what we know about the First Temple period.”

As for who the request was being made to, Mendel-Geberovich said that “many of these inscriptions are addressed to Elyashiv, the quartermaster of the fortress.”

The finding shows the power of multispectral imaging, especially its use on artifacts that have already been studied, but might have had overlooked components, the researchers said.

“This is ongoing research,” study co-researcher Barak Sober, a doctoral student of applied mathematics at TAU, said in the statement. “The future may hold additional surprises.”

The study was published online June 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Original article on Live Science.

 

 

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A Georgian-Italian archaeological expedition has discovered vine pollen in a zoomorphic vessel used in ritual ceremonies by the Kura-Araxes population.

Source: Wine used in ritual ceremonies 5000 years ago in Georgia, the cradle of viticulture

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The mammoth was found on the left bank of Yenisey river, not far from Sopochnaya Karga meterological station. Pictures: Vladimir Pitulko, Alexei Tikhonov

The mammoth was found on the left bank of Yenisey river, not far from Sopochnaya Karga meterological station. Pictures: Vladimir Pitulko, Alexei Tikhonov

inside_excavations_1

 

Original article:

siberiantimes.com

By Anna Liesowska

30 May 2016

 

When Science journal earlier this year highlighted an ancient woolly mammoth with suspected spear wounds it provoked media interest around the world. Until now, the pictures of the remarkable prehistoric ‘injuries’ were not widely seen outside academic circles.

Today The Siberian Times is publishing the images which respected Russian scientists believe is clear proof of ancient man’s attacks on a creature preserved in the permafrost.

If true, the implications are enormous. It would mean, firstly, that man was present in the frozen Arctic wastes a full 10,000 years earlier than previously understood.

Yet it would also establish that early Siberians were just 2,895 miles (4,660 kilometres) from what was then a land bridge between modern Russia and Alaska. A long distance, for sure, but far from insurmountable, opening the possibility that Stone Age Siberians colonised the Americas at this early point.

The 15-year-old male mammoth died on the eastern bank of the giant Yenisei River in northern Siberia, and its remains were found by a 11 year old schoolboy in 2012. It is known variously as the Zhenya mammoth, after the boy who found it, and the Sopkarginsky mammoth, deriving from the location where it was found.

Forensic analysis of the remains – which included still-preserved soft tissue – found evidence that the animal, now long extinct, was hunted and killed by early man using primitive weapons and tools made of bone and stone.

Dr Vladimir Pitulko, lead author of the study published in Science, told The Siberian Times: ‘Most likely the hunters threw relatively light spears. It is a usual hunting tactic, in particular in elephant hunts, which is still practiced in Africa.

‘An elephant is bombarded with a large number of light spears. Then, pierced with such ‘needles’ like a hedgehog, the animal starts losing blood. Even a light spear can penetrate quite deep and injure the vital organs.

‘The mobility of the animal is seriously limited, and then it is soon possible to finish it with a strait blow. I think that the same happened to the Sopkarginsky mammoth.’

He said: ‘The most remarkable injury is to the fifth left rib, caused by a slicing blow, inflicted from the front and somewhat from above in a downward direction. Although it was a glancing blow, it was strong enough to go through skin and muscles and damage the bone.

‘A similar but less powerful blow also damaged the second right front rib. Such blows were aimed at internal organs and/or blood vessels.

‘The mammoth was also hit in the left scapula at least three times. Two of these injuries were imparted by a weapon, which went downwards through the skin and muscles, moving from the top and side. These markings indicate injuries evidently left by relatively light throwing spears.

‘A much more powerful blow damaged the spine of the left scapula. It may have been imparted by a thrusting spear, practically straight from the front at the level of the coracoid process. The weapon went through the shoulder skin and muscle, almost completely perforating the spine of the scapula.

‘Taking into account the scapula’s location in the skeleton and the estimated height of this mammoth, the point of impact would be approximately 1500 mm high, in other words, the height of an adult human’s shoulder.’

Another injury – possibly evidence of a mis-directed blow – was spotted on the left jugal bone. The blow was evidently very strong and was suffered by the animal from the left back and from top down, which is only possible if the animal was lying down on the ground.

Dr Pitulko, of the Institute for the History of Material Culture in St Petersburg, believes that it was ‘the final blow’, which was aimed to the base of the trunk.

Modern elephant hunters still use this method ‘to cut major arteries and cause mortal bleeding’. Yet in this case the prehistoric hunters obviously missed and struck the jugal bone instead.

Luckily the spear left the clear trace on the bone, making possible to learn what kind of weapon it was.

The bone was studied with X-ray computed tomography – a CT scan – by Dr Konstantin Kuper, from the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk. He also created a 3D model of the injury in the bone. This led to the conclusion that the tip of the weapon was made of stone and had a thinned symmetric outline – and was relatively sharp.

Paleontologist Dr Alexei Tikhonov, from the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, who lead the excavations, said: ‘It’s hard to say which blow was the mortal one, at least judging by the traces on the bones.

‘There was quite a strong blow to the scapula, yet I think it was rather the totality of wounds that caused the death. It is interesting that the most of the injuries are on the left side of the animal.

‘I would suppose that the hunters could attack the mammoth which was already lying on the ground. When we examined the skull, we noticed the abnormal development of the upper jaw.

‘We believe that this mammoth got a kind of injury at a very young age, which impacted on its left side. There was no left tusk and I presume that the left side was weak, so it could help the hunters kill the animal.’

The injuries found on the bones also gave clues what did the hunters with the mammoth after they killed it. The right tusk had the traces of human interference on the tip of the tusk.

They did not try and pull the entire tusk off the killed mammal but instead tried to remove ‘long slivers of ivory with sharp edges, which were usable as butchering tools’, said Dr Pitulko.

A butchery mark was also found on the fifth left rib, seen as evidence that the hunters cut meat from the carcass to take it with them. Ancient man also extracted the mammoth tongue, seen as a probable delicacy to these hunters.

Yet the theory that the animal was butchered does not convince all experts.

Dr Robert Park, a professor of anthropology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wrote in an email to Discover, that the skeleton is not consistent with other evidence from early human hunters.

He wrote: ‘The most convincing evidence that it wasn’t butchered is the fact that the archaeologists recovered the mammoth’s fat hump. Hunter-gatherers in high latitudes need fat both for its food value and as fuel. So the one part of the animal that we would not expect hunters to leave behind is fat.’

But Dr Pitulko countered: ‘Yes, ancient man – and not so ancient, in fact – has used and uses animal fat as fuel and food, nothing to argue about here. Why in this very case they did not use their prey in full is impossible to say.

‘There may be dozens of reasons, for example – they could not – the carcass was lying at the water’s edge, and it was late autumn. Or they did not have time: the carcass fell into the water on thin coastal ice. Or it did not correspond to their plans – they killed the poor animal just to have a meal and replenish the supply of food for a small group.’

They might have killed another animal nearer to their camp, and so abandoned this one. He said ‘a thousand and one reasons’ might explain not purloining the fat.

The expert added: ‘I believe that the main reason for hunting mammoths were their tusks. Mammoth as a source of food wasn’t very necessary although I believe they were useful.

‘People needed tusks because they were living in landscapes free of forests, so called mammoth steppe. In the course of time, a technology to produce spears out of tusks was developed.’

On the significance for the New World, he told Discovery the human role in killing the mammoth ‘is especially important’ because ‘now we know that eastern Siberia up to its Arctic limits was populated starting at roughly 50,000 years ago’.

 

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