Newly uncovered mammoth bones hint at more ancient human existence in the Arctic than previously believed, by a margin of over 5,000 years. The history of human populations in the colder regions has been difficult to understand. Where it regards the freezing lands of the Siberian Arctic though, new information was recently dug out from the ice.
Researchers from the Russian Academy of Science examined the remains of a wooly mammoth discovered back in 2012 on the eastern shore of Yenisei Bay. The bones of its ribs, shoulder blade, cheek, and tusk were found at 72oN latitude, north of the Arctic Circle. Due to the exceptionally cold temperatures, even the fat hump and the mammoth’s penis were well preserved.
There were numerous marks across the well conserved remains that indicated potential human activity around the animal’s death. According to the researchers, the bones presented with numerous dents and punctures, littered all across their surface. These injuries indicate that the mammoth had likely suffered a violent death, and was partly butchered by ancient hunters. This fueled the theory that wooly mammoths were driven to extinction by humans.
After conducting more research, the scientists used radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the bones. According to their findings, the mammoth died around 45,000 years ago, which is at least 10,000 years before previous estimations thought humans to have existed in the area. Earlier, it was believed that humans did not step in the Siberian Arctic until 30,000 to 35,000 years ago, but the new study might suggest differently.
Due to the multitude of injuries, the researchers stated that it’s proof the mammoth died after an encounter with humans. If there had been only one, perhaps the giant might’ve fallen to a different cause. However, the multiple dents and punctures suggest human activity. That dates human presence back between 10,000 to 15,000 years earlier than previously believed.
According to lead author of the study, Vladimir Pitulko, this means that they have essentially extended the habitable area for humans 45,000 years ago. It could lead to further digs and researches on potential human activity across the freezing and snow-covered grounds. It marks tremendous amounts of potential for further study. This represents “an important cultural and adaptational shift” in human history.
However, not all are inclined to believe their theory. Robert Patrick, an archaeologist from the Waterloo University stated that even if it’s a possibility humans inhabited the area that long ago, it’s still unlikely. The presence of the animal’s fat hump might contradict the new theory, as hunters would have taken it for food or fuel. Others, on the other hand, believe the study truly indicates a new discovery in human history.
Image source: bigthink.com