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'Siberia is a home to the cultures of indigenes, including people whose ancestors migrated to the Americas'
A.J. Haywood

If you think Siberia is cold, for cave-dwelling Neanderthals it was far colder

By The Siberian Times reporter
13 August 2015

New study reveals icy climate conditions in pre-historic times. 

Chagyrskaya cave is on the left bank of the River Charysh in Krasnoschekovsky district of Altai region and consists of two chambers of about 130 square metres. Picture: Nataliya Rudaya

Reseachers from Novosibirsk have recreated the habitat of primitive people who lived in a cave in modern-day Altai region some 50,000 or 60,000 years ago. 

By analysing ancient pollen, they can calculate the climate and vegetation of the period. The climate for Neanderthals was colder, and drier, than today. It was a cold steppe or tundra-steppe type climate with almost no forests in marked contrast to today's landscape.

Leaving Chagyrskaya cave, Neanderthals saw before them the steppe consisting of wormwood, feather grass and other grasses, and wild rose bushes on the slopes. Higher in the mountains were lonely larches, and far to the south-west was dark taiga with a predominance of fir trees.

Bisons


Tundro-steppe

Bisons inhabited ancient tundra-steppe near Chagyrskaya cave. The modern tundra-steppe on Saylyugen ridge. Pictures: Nataliya Rudaya, I. Smelyansky

Cave-mates for ancient man included small rodents, namely prairie voles, lemmings, and yellow flycatchers. The last two are far from typical in the modern-day Altai Mountains, suggesting climate conditions were colder.

The average annual temperature may have been as much as as minus 9.5C colder than today, say various sources. Summer temperatures today peak at an average 26C, but this is 15C or so warmer than in ancient times. 

Dr Nataliya Rudaya, of the Laboratory of Human Paleoecology and Geo-archeology in Novosibirsk, said: 'Each year plants produce millions of pollen particles, which, thanks to their hard shell - something similar in strength to the chitin in insects - can be stored in the earth for millions of years. 

Natalya Rudaya

Dr Nataliya Rudaya, of the Laboratory of Human Paleoecology and Geo-archeology in Novosibirsk State University. Picture: Novosibirsk State University

'This is why pollen is one of the most used biological markers. After analysing samples of soil, you can determine which plants grew at the time, as well as the percentages of different ecological groups of plants and so  reconstruct the climate.'

Chagyrskaya cave is on the left bank of the River Charysh in Krasnoschekovsky district of Altai region and consists of two chambers of about 130 square metres.

Neanderthal artifacts were discovered here, and evidence that they hunted bison. The cave probably served as a temporary asylum or hunting spot, say archeologists. 

The latest research was carried out by Novosibirsk State University and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography.

Comments (1)

It is absolutely amazing what has been deposited beneath our feet. The study of pollen particles within the soil must be a pains taking process. I have always wondered how finding a pollen sample of an unknown species, could be classified and identified in understanding what life was like during that particular period. Amazing science, keep up the great work.
Shawn, North Carolina, U.S.A.
01/09/2015 06:00
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