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New mass grave of woolly mammoths found by Siberian river

By Kate Baklitskaya and Olga Gertcyk
01 October 2015

Bones of 11 extinct giants discovered, plus one woolly rhinoceros: but why did they die here?

Initial estimates are that bone are between 10,000 and 30,000 years old. Picture: Anton Rezvy

Paleontologists have found 550 ancient bones at a site close to the Ob River in western Siberia, it was announced today. Tests including radiocarbon analysis will be undertaken to date the remains from the latest mammoth necropolis to be unearthed. 

Initial estimates are that the bones are between 10,000 and 30,000 years old. These are the first pictures from the site, which is in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region.

Mammoth cemetery in Ugra


Map

The existence of this site has long been reported to us, but until now we could not specify its exact location.' Pictures: Anton Rezvy, The Siberian Times

Anton Rezvy, head of the palaeontological department of the Khanty-Mansiysk Museum of Nature and Man, said: 'I took part in this expedition. The existence of this site has long been reported to us, but until now we could not specify its exact location.'

He said: 'We arrived - and luckily found the site quickly. Part of the location was already washed away by the river, and bones just lie on a flat surface of the river bank. We have collected in excess of 500 bones, one of the woolly rhinoceros, three of reindeer, and the rest of the mammoth. 

Mammoth cemetery in Ugra


Mammoth cemetery in Ugra

'We have collected in excess of 500 bones., one of the woolly rhinoceros, three of reindeer, and the rest of the mammoth.' Pictures: Anton Rezvy

'For years, people took the bones as souvenirs and as a result we did not find a single tusk, teeth and large bones. It is these that attracts people first of all. The great thing is that we have found the place from which the bones were washed away by the river, and now we can conduct the large-scale excavations there.'

At least four other mass graves of woolly mammoths are known in Siberia. They are at Mamontovoye (Volchya Griva, Novosibirsk region), Shestakovo (Kemerovo region), Krasnoyarskaya Kurya (Tomsk region), and Berelekh (Yakutia).

Mammoth cemetery in Ugra


Mammoth cemetery in Ugra

'For years, people took the bones as souvenirs and as a result we did not find a single tusk, teeth and large bones.' Pictures: Anton Rezvy

Why do they exist? One theory is that the mammoths suffered a mineral deficiency and were desperately seeking calcium at sites of so-called salt licks. The creatures suffered a crippling bone disease and perished at sites where they sought solace, as if at an ancient mammoth health spa. 

Another version is that they were trapped by ancient hunters. Recently we highlighted the mass grave at a village called Mamontovoye - or Mammoth.

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