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'What has enabled Russia to rise among the great powers of the world…has been the conquest of Siberia'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Record concentration of woolly mammoth bones in Russia is found in Novosibirsk region

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 September 2016

Over thousands of years, the giant beasts came to die in the same place - but the older ones were twice the size of the final mammoth generations.

If we compare the volume, the mammoths which lived 30,000 years ago were twice as big as the later ones.' Picture: TSU

A summer dig at the Volchya Griva mammoth graveyard has produced a record haul of mammoth bones, but this was not the only surprising discovery. In a pit measuring nine square metres Tomsk State University palaeontologists found remains from at least eight extinct creatures.

In a collection of 785 finds experts also found bones and teeth of bison, horses and - likely but not confirmed yet - foxes or polar foxes as well as rodents.

Sergey Leshchinsky, head of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Ecosystems Laboratory, said: 'We excavated two bone-carrying levels, which is the typical way they are arranged at the Volchya Griva - and found a lot of interesting bones. 

Map


Mamontovoye

He said that previous excavations since the 1960s were in one location on the outskirts of Mammoth (Mamontovoye) village, long known as a necropolis for the extinct creatures.  Pictures: The Siberian Times, Vera Salnitskaya

'We were about to leave for home, but we have this unspoken rule which says that we must check through underlying deposits at a minimum of 'two bayonets deep'. 

'So this is what we did - we went further down in one location, then in another, and realised that we had at least ten more days of work. As we went deeper we found such concentration of mammoth bones that we never had before, whether it was at Volchya Griva (already known as one of the largest in Eurasia) or any other location in Russia. 

'There was sometimes more than 100 finds  - ribs, vertebras and limb bones - in an area one square meter wide and half a meter deep. These new remains of woolly mammoths found at a deeper level are incredibly well-preserved. 

Pit


excavations

 In a pit measuring nine square metres Tomsk State University palaeontologists found remains from at least eight extinct creatures. Pictures: TSU

'They were buried under a layer of sand and clay in a little slump several years after animals died. We found a good number of anatomical joints which will be helpful in getting more information about locations and reasons of the mammoths' death, as well as in identifying their size and age.'

He said that previous excavations since the 1960s were in one location on the outskirts of Mammoth (Mamontovoye) village, long known as a necropolis for the extinct creatures. 

'The depth of the layer with the bones there is 1.5 metres,' he said. 'This year we decided to check a new place, in the middle of the village, where the locals had found the bones while digging cellars and trenches for water pipes. 

'We used the drilling equipment to find a layer with bones and when we found a suitable place, we cleaned the square of 3x3 metres. Luckily, we did not cleaned more, we would never have returned from Mamontovoye in this case...

Bones


Bones

'We found a good number of anatomical joints which will be helpful in getting more information about locations and reasons of the mammoths' death.' Picture: Sergey Leshchinsky, TSU

'We dug out the usual layer of 1.5 metres and thought that this was the end of it and we could go for a small recce in the surroundings, to search for the other similar places. Yet we decided to dig out two more shovels (bayonets) and found another layer, twice as rich in bones.'

He said it was the first time clear evidence of rodents was found. 

'The predators obviously came and gnawed the carcasses. We see the traces of their teeth on the bones.'

An 'interlayer' probably indicates 'that there was some break between two periods of mammoths coming to this place. We need to study this more thoroughly and to continue the work there. 

In Laboratory

'Mammoths unearthed in the lower layer were about 3 or 3.1 metres tall, while those that lived 10,000 years ago are between 2.6 - 2.1 metres high.' Picture: TSU

'The lower layer, judging by stratigraphy, was in some gully. The bones were washed there by water and were sealed with the dirt. This helped them to preserve so well.

'The mammoth we see on the lower layer - we date them preliminarily as 30,000 years old, but of course we need the make the analysis to find out the exact age - were bigger than the later mammoths, dated as 10,000 years ago. 

'Mammoths unearthed in the lower layer were about 3 or 3.1 metres tall, while those that lived 10,000 years ago are between 2.6 - 2.1 metres high. If we compare the volume, the mammoths which lived 30,000 years ago were twice as big as the later ones.  

'This is not a sensation, it is known fact, but here we can see this difference literally in one place.' The bones will be subjected to radiocarbon analysis to assist with dating the remains.

Mammoth village


Mammoth village


Mammoth bones


Mammoth bones

'This year we decided to check a new place, in the middle of the village, where the locals had found the bones while digging cellars and trenches for water pipes.' Picture: Vera Salnitskaya, Galina Chuyko

Tomsk scientists say that a significant difference in the size of mammoths from upper and lower levels can be explained by negative environmental factors that affected later generations of mammoths as they lurched towards extinction.

Many of upper level bones show traces of osteodystrophy which means that they suffered from a huge mineral deficiency, scientists refer to as 'mineral starvation'.

This was the driving force behind their impulse to reach natrium-rich soils like Volchya Griva, where thousands of years later people have found their remains. Siberian researchers believe this is just a small part of the Volchya Griva treasures. This was a mineral oasis for mammoths and thousands more bones are likely to lie undiscovered. 

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