Saturday, Apr 29 2017
All Cities
Choose Your City
'Lake Baikal is truly astonishing. One of the most ancient geographical features on Earth, it is estimated to be 30 million years old'
Marc Di Duca

Paleothithic man 'not the main cause of deaths at vast mammoth graveyard'

By Olga Gertcyk
22 February 2016

Experts say no sign of any human settlements close to 'largest necropolis in Asia for the extinct beasts’.

Paleontologists want to massively extend excavations at the site, known as Volchya Griva at Mamontovoye - or Mammoth - village. Picture: TSU

While a few human implements have been found at Mammoth village, there is a striking lack of man's presence at the probably most recent known large cemetery for the ancient giants, according to a new documentary from Tomsk State University. 

The film appears to clear Paleothithic man of having much to do with the demise of the species here, although the creatures were clearly filleted for meat and hide, and their tusks were purloined some 10,000 to 14,000  years ago. 

All the implements were not made of local stone, and in fact came from hundreds of kilometres away from the site in Novosibrisk region that may hold the key to why the the mammoths finally died out. They were less weapons than butchering tools, it is believed.

Mammoth village


Volchya Griva


Volchya Griva


Volchya Griva

Volchya Griva is one of the youngest refugia of mammoths in Eurasia. It is already established mammoths were there 11,000-18,000 years ago. Pictures: TSU

So man did not live close to a place where the ailing mammoths came to die, but visited to raid the enfeebled animals after they tramped here from huge distances. 

Paleontologists want to massively extend excavations at the site, known as Volchya Griva at Mamontovoye - or Mammoth - village after a dig in 2015 resulted in the discovery of more than 600 bones and teeth.

Eminent Soviet archeologist Aleksei Okladnikov in 1969 noticed how at the site 'bones were lying at the same level horizontally - and had no marks of any sort of catastrophic influence'.

The short documentary cites a number of leading experts noting the lack of human presence at the site. Academician Dr Vyacheslav Molodin, an archeologist, one of the first researchers at Volchya Griva, said: 'Of course when I went there I was hoping to find some human dwelling. But, unfortunately, we didn't find it.'

Taking samples


Taking samples


Mammoths bone decease


Mammoths bone decease

Dr Sergey Leshchinsky, head of the Laboratory of continental ecosystems of Mesozoic and Cenozoic of Tomsk State University, believes that osteoporosis was a key factor in the demise of the animals. Pictures: TSU, Sergey Leshchinsky

Dr Vasily Zenin, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: 'It was expected to find a Paleolitic dwelling there, perhaps, some religious constructions.' However, 'when we started digging, it became obvious that presence of humans was very limited. There were no conditions for a permanent settlement in Volchya Griva or around it.'

Equally, the half dozen mammoth remains found during research in summer 2015 all appeared to have died relatively young. The creature had a lifespan of 60 to 80 years, but of the six animals found here included two that died between one and 12 years old, one under a year old and two between 12 and 25 years. Two were older than 25. 

Volchya Griva


Volchya Griva

Eminent Soviet archeologist Aleksei Okladnikov noticed how at the site 'bones were lying at the same level horizontally - and had no marks of any sort of catastrophic influence'. Pictures: Vasily Zenin

Intriguingly, some 40% of the woolly mammoth bones found here show signs of bone diseases. 

The Siberian Times has examined previously the theory of Dr Sergey Leshchinsky, head of the Laboratory of continental ecosystems of Mesozoic and Cenozoic of  Tomsk State University, that osteoporosis was a key factor in the demise of the animals, and that the reason they came to this site was because it was a 'salt lick' offering them the chance to rectify mineral deficiencies. 

Vasily Zenin


Stone implements


Stone implements

Dr Vasily Zenin, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk: 'There were no conditions for a permanent settlement in Volchya Griva or around it.' Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya, TSU

Links to our previous stories are here

He said on camera: 'It is a very young site. Volchya Griva is one of the youngest refugia of mammoths in Eurasia. It is already established mammoths were there 11,000-18,000 years ago, and it is the most southerly (refugium). One of the main questions now is when was the last wave of deaths of mammoths.'

It is clear that the site here has yet to reveal all its secrets. Despite the lack of man's presence on a grand scale here, Leshchinsky said: 'It is possible that thanks to such locations man actually survived' (in this part of Siberia).

And Zenin observed: 'The answer to question why mammoths died out and whether man contributed to that is yet to be found.'

Samples collected from the bones will be studied in the Centre of Geochronology, of the Siberian branch of Russian Academy of Science, and Georgia University, in the United States.

Comments (7)

Instead of "man" please say "humans", it's a species composed by women and men.
Andres Suarez, Cancun, Mexico
15/03/2016 09:06
1
0
An interesting idea proposed by some, and supported by evidence suggests that the Earth was hit by a massive Meteor or Comet fragment about 12,600 years ago resulting in a period of rapid cooling known as the Younger Dryas, that led to the widespread extinction of Mega fauna across the planet, as the Earth was plunged into a kind of Nuclear Winter. This event also caused the collapse of a supposed advanced civilisation (Atlantis?) and was recorded for posterity in ancient tales and records, the most notable of which is the Story of Noah and the flood, also the Popol Vuh of South America. An English author called Graham Hancock has written several books about this.
Simon Robinson, Blackburn, England
13/03/2016 17:26
1
0
I agree with Paul Coates about intellectual laziness and hubris. There is very little evidence to support the "man is the cause" argument. How come humans did not kill off all the bison, moose and other large animals? At 17th century in North America there were millions of deer and bison - but not a single mammoth.
This find by Dr Zenin reveals that 40% of the bones were diseased - a more likely route for investigation as to the demise of mega-fauna.
By the way, Siberian Times is publishing very interesting science content - thank-you
Steven Lang , Grahamstown, South Africa
26/02/2016 21:57
4
0
Man is certainly the main cause of mega-fauna extinction around the world. The reason that mega-fauna in Africa did not become extinct is that man and the animals evolved TOGETHER over millons of years (so the mega-fauna know how to defend or avid themselves from humans). However, when man reached the other continents form 100,000 to 10,000 years ago the mega-fauna had no natural caution or defense against man and their (now) fine tuned hunting techniques. There is is nearly a one for one relationship that after man colonized areas, there is a huge extinction event (Australia, North/South America, New Zealand, etc, etc)
Mike, USA
24/02/2016 22:22
4
7
To reply to Paul Coats comment, maybe some groups were better at killing than others. Maybe Europeans and Native Americans developed better weaponry earlier. There is some evidence for that.
todd, usa
24/02/2016 19:32
1
2
Very interesting .Thanks. We wait for other account about mammouth research!
Jocelyne, FRANCE
24/02/2016 16:33
8
0
At last, evidence that moves beyond the simplistic explanation of man being the cause for the demise of the mega fauna. The claim never made sense to me. If humankind is such a destructive force to animal life, How did the African and Asian elephants (and rhinos, for that matter) manage to survive. Given that hominids arose in Africa and spread from there, it would make the most sense for elephants and othe mega fauna to have disappeared there first. Instead, it is where they persist even to this day.

It is either intellectual laziness or hubris that latches on to the "man is the cause" position instead of admitting we simply do not know or there is inconclusive evidence for a difinitive answer. Scientifically speaking, we must be careful not to generalize the findings from this sight. Though intreging, I suspect we still have much to learn before we have a fuller understanding of the caus or causes of this mass extinction. Keep up the good work.
Paul Coats, Midland, GA
24/02/2016 06:18
14
4
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


Features

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR62.04USD56.98GBP73.62Other...