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Harder to explain for the archeologists were the remains of animals in the pits. Picture: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS

Harder to explain for the archeologists were the remains of animals in the pits. Picture: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS

 

Fish was processed by putting it in pits in the red-coloured ground to give it a 'special smell'. Picture: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS

Fish was processed by putting it in pits in the red-coloured ground to give it a ‘special smell’. Picture: Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS

 

Original Article:

Siberian times.com

By Olga Gertcyk, November 2015

The find in Novosibirsk region has left archeologists with many questions, since some animals kept alive in two metre-deep pits at the smokehouse were not at the time native to this area. Excavations in the summer found the ancient smokehouse, along with bone and stone tools.

Fish was processed by putting it in pits in the red-coloured ground to give it a ‘special smell’. The smokehouse was uncovered at Tartas-1 site in Vengerovo district where experts have been studying burials and other ritual facilities for over 10 years.

‘This year we came across an unusual facility, a Neolithic smokehouse,’ said Dr Vyacheslav Molodin, deputy director of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, in Novosibirsk. The building is very large and dates back to Neolithic times, the Stone Age, according to stone tools.’

Smoking fish in this way is still done by groups in Siberia and the extreme north, he said. ‘This method is known and is still used by some Siberian and Extreme North ethnic groups. The fish starts smelling, but it didn’t bother our ancestors.’

The smokehouse was uncovered at Tartas-1 site in Vengerovo district where experts have been studying burials and other ritual facilities for over 10 years. Picture: The Siberian Times

The smokehouse was uncovered at Tartas-1 site in Vengerovo district where experts have been studying burials and other ritual facilities for over 10 years. Picture: The Siberian Times

Harder to explain for the archeologists were the remains of animals in the pits. A skeleton of a wolverine – a mammal that resembles a small bear – was found here. Yet the wolverine is not typical here. It is a native of the taiga and is not typical in the steppe where Tartas-1 is located.

Ermine remains were found here too, as were bones of domesticated animals and coprolites (fossilised dung). Remains of a dog and a fox were located in other storage areas. Dr Molodin alleged that the animals could have been kept there for ritual purposes. ‘For some time the pits were used for ritual purposes but it’s a huge mystery which we have yet to understand,’ he said.

 

 

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Topic: Ancient fruit

Arctic squirrel

Scientists in Russia have grown plants from fruit stored away in permafrost by squirrels over 30,000 years ago.

The fruit was found in the banks of the Kolyma River in Siberia, a top site for people looking for mammoth bones.

The Institute of Cell Biophysics team raised plants of Silene stenophylla – of the campion family – from the fruit.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), they note this is the oldest plant material by far to have been brought to life.

Prior to this, the record lay with date palm seeds stored for 2,000 years at Masada in Israel.

The leader of the research team, Professor David Gilichinsky, died a few days before his paper was published.

In it, he and his colleagues describe finding about 70 squirrel hibernation burrows in the river bank.

“All burrows were found at depths of 20-40m from the present day surface and located in layers containing bones of large mammals such as mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, bison, horse, deer, and other representatives of fauna from the age of mammoths, as well as plant remains,” they write.

“The presence of vertical ice wedges demonstrates that it has been continuously frozen and never thawed.

“Accordingly, the fossil burrows and their content have never been defrosted since burial and simultaneous freezing.”

The squirrels appear to have stashed their store in the coldest part of their burrow, which subsequently froze permanently, presumably due to a cooling of the local climate.

The fruits grew into healthy plants, though subtly different from modern examples of the species

Sugar sweet

Back in the lab, near Moscow, the team’s attempts to germinate mature seeds failed.

Eventually they found success using elements of the fruit itself, which they refer to as “placental tissue” and propagated in laboratory dishes.

“This is by far the most extraordinary example of extreme longevity for material from higher plants,” commented Robin Probert, head of conservation and technology at the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank.

“I’m not surprised that it’s been possible to find living material as old as this, and this is exactly where we would go looking, in permafrost and these fossilised rodent burrows with their caches of seeds.

“But it is a surprise to me that they’re finding viable material from this placental tissue rather than mature seeds.

The Russian team’s theory is that the tissue cells are full of sucrose that would have formed food for the growing plants.

Sugars are preservatives; they are even being researched as a way of keeping vaccines fresh in the hot climates of Africa without the need for refrigeration.

So it may be that the sugar-rich cells were able to survive in a potentially viable state for so long.

Silene stenophylla still grows on the Siberian tundra; and when the researchers compared modern-day plants against their resurrected cousins, they found subtle differences in the shape of petals and the sex of flowers, for reasons that are not evident.

The scientists suggest in their PNAS paper that research of this kind can help in studies of evolution, and shed light on environmental conditions in past millennia.

But perhaps the most enticing suggestion is that it might be possible, using the same techniques, to raise plants that are now extinct – provided that Arctic ground squirrels or some other creatures secreted away the fruit and seeds.

“We’d predict that seeds would stay viable for thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years – I don’t think anyone would expect hundreds of thousands of years,” said Dr Probert.

“[So] there is an opportunity to resurrect flowering plants that have gone extinct in the same way that we talk about bringing mammoths back to life, the Jurassic Park kind of idea.”

Original Article:

bbc.co.uk

By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News

February 20, 2012

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