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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

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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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There’s a new mega-mammal on the menu of America’s first hunters.

On a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered 13,400-year-old weapons mingled with bones from an extinct elephant relative called the gomphothere. The animal was smaller than mastodons and mammoths, but most had four sharp tusks for defense.

The new evidence puts the gomphothere in North America at the same time as a prehistoric group of paleo-Indians known as the Clovis culture, whose beautifully crafted projectile points helped bring down giant Ice Age mammals, including mammoths. This is the first time gomphothere fossils have been discovered with Clovis artifacts.

“The Clovis stereotypically went out and hunted mammoth, and now there’s another elephant on the menu,” said Vance Holliday, a co-author on the new study, published today (July 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The archeological site, named “El Fin del Mundo” (the End of the Earth), marks two new extremes for both the Clovis and the gomphotheres. It is one of the oldest Clovis sites ever found, and the bones are the youngest gomphotheres ever discovered in North America. Until now, researchers thought gomphotheres vanished before humans reached North America. [In Photos: New Clovis site in Sonora]

“The implications are pretty simple, although certainly not trivial — early human explorers of interior North America opportunistically targeted the largest Pleistocene animals as part of their cultural pattern, and this pattern probably started almost as soon as people had made their way south into the lower 48 states,” said Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in the study. The Pleistocene epoch spans from about 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago.

An amazing find

The Sonora Clovis site is now scrubby desert, but it was once a spring-fed swamp that probably offered up a steady supply of fresh water. Nearby hills provided high-quality rock for the distinctive Clovis weapons, including spectacular quartz blades. “They are just mind-bogglingly beautiful,” said Holliday, an archaeologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “There is definitely an aesthetic component to them.”

The blade makers also shaped chalcedony, chert, quartzite and rhyolite into blades and scrapers. However, four of the blades from the ranch are basalt, which is locally rare but looks remarkably similar to rocks at a Clovis site called El Bajio, about 112 miles (180 kilometers) to the east, the researchers reported.

The gomphothere remains are from two juveniles, probably each younger than 12 years old when they died, the researchers said. The scientists also found two bone ornaments, and a piece of burned bone.

The team, led by Guadalupe Sanchez, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Hermosillo, Mexico, excavated the cream-colored rock at the behest of the rancher who owns the land. He had noticed the bones and artifacts eroding from a small cliff, and invited the researchers to dig, Holliday said.

The scientists determined the site’s age through radiocarbon dating on charcoal. The researchers dated charcoal in layers with bone and Clovis weapons to 11,550 radiocarbon years ago, which doesn’t match up precisely with calendar dates. It’s equivalent to 13,390 years ago. (The discrepancy is because of changes in global radiocarbon concentrations over time.)

That age suggests the Clovis people were hunting large mammals in the Southwest for a span of several hundred years, Holliday said. [See Images of the Baby Woolly Mammoths]

The youngest Clovis sites are about 125 miles (200 km) to the north, along the San Pedro River (Rio San Pedro) in Arizona, Holliday said. “These hunters were around for a long time, at least 500 years,” he said. “It seems they were coming and going as they pleased, going from water source to water source and learning the land.”

However, other scientists said they would like to see more carbon dates from the site before reaching broad conclusions about the origins of the Clovis. “The Achilles’ heel is that there’s just one radiocarbon age,” said Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M University in College Station, who was not involved in the study. “I think this is a very interesting and exciting archaeological discovery, but the age needs to be confirmed.”

America’s first culture

Though the Clovis people were not the very first settlers of the New World, they were probably North America’s first homegrown culture. Their trademark stone blades were the era’s equivalent of the iPhone — an innovative, disruptive technology — and rapidly replaced earlier bone and antler tools. “There are really no other artifacts like it on any other continents,” Holliday said. “This amazing technology just spread.”

Clovis points were so popular and widespread that they still litter the ground in many places, especially in the Southwest and Southeast, including Mexico.

But scientists do not agree on where the technology first emerged, or why the Clovis people invented it. The Sonoran site’s early age, combined with a similar age from a Clovis dig in Texas, suggests the culture may have risen in the South, Holliday said.

“This site opens up some new possibilities that the Clovis originated in the Southwest corner of North America or the southern half of North America,” Holliday said.

Earlier this year, a genetic analysis of a Clovis-era skeleton revealed that 80 percent of today’s Native Americans, including indigenous people in Mexico and South America, share direct genetic links with this single known Clovis ancestor.

Original article:
livescience.com

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Topic: Ivory used to make hunting tools

Contrary to their hunting reputation, Stone Age Siberians killed mammoths only every few years when they needed tusks for toolmaking, a new study finds.

People living between roughly 33,500 and 31,500 years ago hunted the animals mainly for ivory, say paleontologist Pavel Nikolskiy and archaeologist Vladimir Pitulko of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Hunting could not have driven mammoths to extinction, the researchers report June 5 in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

On frigid tundra with few trees, mammoth tusks substituted for wood as a raw material for tools, they propose. Siberian people ate mammoth meat after hunts, but food was not their primary goal.

Several European and North American sites have yielded single mammoth carcasses lying amid stone tools. Such finds could reflect either hunting or scavenging. Finds at Siberia’s Yana archeological site provide an unprecedented window on the hunting and killing of mammoths over a long time period, says archaeologist John Hoffecker of the University of Colorado Boulder.

Mammoth bones appear in sufficient numbers at some sites in Europe to suggest that hunters there did seek more than ivory, says archaeologist Jiří Svoboda of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Whatever happened at Yana, many groups were probably interested in obtaining mammoth meat, fat, bones, tusks and skin, Svoboda says.

Since 2008, scientists have unearthed 1,103 bones from at least 31 mammoths at Yana. Radiocarbon measurements indicate that mammoth remains gradually accumulated there over 2,000 years.

Right shoulder blades from two mammoths contain pieces of stone spear points. An ivory splinter, possibly from a spear’s shaft, pierced one of these bones. Another shoulder blade and a thigh bone display holes made by spears. Angles of these wounds suggest that hunters struck mammoths from behind. “Yana people definitely attacked from the mammoth’s blind spot,” Nikolskiy says.
Most mammoth bones at Yana come from animals with slightly curved tusks that were the best size and shape for making hunting weapons, Nikolskiy and Pitulko propose.

Researchers have found five mammoth bones from the base of the animals’ tongues at a campsite not far from where remains were excavated. Meaty parts of the animals were probably consumed there, the investigators say.

While hunting was not the main cause of mammoths’ extinction in Asia and Europe, it may have been the last straw as warming temperatures shrank livable areas for the creatures.

Original article:

sciencenews

By Bruce Bower
Web edition: June 12, 2013

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Topic :Ancient Fishing

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Scientists have unearthed six fishhooks, the oldest of which was made from a 19,000-year-old mammoth tusk.

Hunters of ice age reindeer around 12,300 years ago likely left the fishhooks, along with mammal and fish bones, in an open field in what is now Wustermark, Germany. The fishhooks, which are the oldest found in Europe, suggests humans developed fishing tools earlier than previously thought, probably to catch fast-moving fish that appeared in lakes as the climate warmed.

“These people had strong ideas to use the new resources of this changing environment,” said Robert Sommer, a paleoecologist at the University of Kiel in Germany. The eel, perch and pike that entered lakes are too fast to snag with a harpoon or a spear, Sommer added.

The findings are detailed in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Ancient seafood

Most archaeological evidence for ancient seafood consumption has washed away with rising sea levels. In 2011, scientists discovered the world’s oldest fishhooks in coastal caves in East Timor (formerly part of Indonesia).  But because the hooks were not complete, they relied heavily on nearby fish bones to draw their conclusions.

And until now, archaeologists in Europe thought hunter-gatherers around 12,000 years ago speared slow-moving fish like salmon in shallow streams, but didn’t use hooks until much later, Sommer told LiveScience.

Fish eaters

Sommer and his colleagues unearthed several Paleolithic finds during a routine environmental assessment prior to building a shopping mall 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) west of Berlin.

The site, which was once an open field near an ancient lake, revealed six fishhooks, along with animal and fish remains. One of the fishhooks was carved from ivory from a mammoth tusk, while the rest were made of reindeer or elk bones closer to 12,300 years of age.

Because mammoths went extinct before the fishermen lived, the people probably found a whole tusk and used it millennia later, Sommer told LiveScience.

Confirms fishing

The fishhooks are impressive because they show the sophistication of ancient hunters, said Sue O’Connor, an archaeologist at the Australian National University, who found the East Timor fishhooks, but was not involved in this study

“There’s a lot of planning that’s gone into the development of these particular hook shapes,” O’Connor told LiveScience. “You’ve got to have it at the right angle so it actually hooks the fish, otherwise the fish just gets off.”

Original article:

livescience

By Tia Ghose

March 8, 2013

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Topic: Prehistoric BBQ

 

mammoth-bone-324x205Central Europe’s prehistoric people would likely have been amused by today’s hand-sized hamburgers and hot dogs, since archaeologists have just uncovered a 29,000 B.C. well-equipped kitchen where roasted gigantic mammoth was one of the last meals served.

The site, called Pavlov VI in the Czech Republic near the Austrian and Slovak Republic borders, provides a homespun look at the rich culture of some of Europe’s first anatomically modern humans.

While contemporaneous populations near this region seemed to prefer reindeer meat, the Gravettian residents of this living complex, described in the latest issue of the journal Antiquity, appeared to seek out more super-sized fare.

“It seems that, in contrast to other Upper Paleolithic societies in Moravia, these people depended heavily on mammoths,” project leader Jiri Svoboda told Discovery News.

Svoboda, a professor at the University of Brno and director of its Institute of Archaeology, and colleagues recently excavated Pavlov VI, where they found the remains of a female mammoth and one mammothcalf near a 4-foot-wide roasting pit. Arctic fox, wolverine, bear and hare remains were also found, along with a few horse and reindeer bones.

The meats were cooked luau-style underground. Svoboda said, “We found the heating stones still within the pit and around.”

Boiling pits existed near the middle roaster. He thinks “the whole situation — central roasting pit and the circle of boiling pits — was sheltered by a teepee or yurt-like structure.”

It’s unclear if seafood was added to create a surf-and-turf meal, but multiple decorated shells were unearthed. Many showed signs of cut marks, along with red and black coloration. The scientists additionally found numerous stone tools, such as spatulas, blades and saws, which they suggest were good for carving mammoths.

Perforated, decorative pebbles, ceramic pieces and fragments of fired clay were also excavated. The living unit’s occupants left their fingerprints on some of the clay pieces, which they decorated with impressions made from reindeer hair and textiles.

Some items might have held “magical” or ritualistic significance, according to the scientists. One such artifact looks to be the head of a lion.

“This carnivore head was first modeled of wet clay, then an incision was made with a sharp tool, and finally the piece was heated in the fire, turned into some kind of ceramic,” Svoboda explained. “We hypothesize that this may be sympathetic magic.”

“Sympathetic magic” often involves the use of effigies or fetishes, resembling individuals or objects, and is meant to affect the environment or the practitioners themselves.

Archaeologist Erik Trinkaus of Washington University supports the new study, saying the site was “excavated meticulously” by Svoboda and his team.

“This is one more example, in this case from modern detailed excavation and analysis, of the incredibly rich human behavior from this time period,” Trinkaus told Discovery News.

Original article June 3,2009

By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

 

 

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