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New tests underway on Mona Lisa of geo-archeology - a bone that proves man hunted woolly mammoth

By The Siberian Times reporter
07 September 2018

Unique 16,200 year old chest vertebra with spear wound to undergo ultramodern tests in search for truth about extinction of giant beast.

Traces of light-green quartzite  - which our ancestors used for spear heads - were found on the bone. Picture: Tomsk State University

Forensic evidence is clear that this hole was made by a spear or javelin, meaning this woolly mammoth was slain by ancient man.

The mortal blow was delivered by Upper Paleolithic hunters some 16,200 years ago, almost 3,000 years earlier than previously believed, say scientists. 

An intriguing video reenacts the scene of the prehistoric attack on a mammoth that was believed to have been disabled - and suffering from osteoporosis - a condition evidently common in the creatures in the period prior to extinction. 

The ancient hunter in modern-day Khanty-Mansiysk region left a deep oval-shaped mark in the vertebrae (Vertebra Thoracica) of the beast.

Remarkably, traces of light-green quartzite  - which our ancestors used for spear heads - were found on the bone. 

New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.
Woolly mammoth bone with a piece of light-green quartzite used for spearheads still stuck inside. Pictures: Tomsk State University, The Siberian Times


There is no sign of bone healing, which allowed scientists to conclude that this must have been the final strike.

The bone has now arrived in Tomsk where an international Russian-Polish team will work on extracting DNA and carrying paleo-DNA analysis. 

Scientists have christened it the ‘Mona Lisa of Geo-Archeology’ for the amount of unique data it  provided to scientists.

‘This is a very precious sample, which we hope will give us new information on the ecology of woolly mammoths during the time of their mass extinction,’ said Dr Sergey Leshchinsky, head of Tomsk State University’s Laboratory for the Mesozoic and Cenozois Continental Ecosystem.

New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.

Mona Lisa of geo-archeology - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth. Pictures: The Siberian Times


Experts will carry out synchrotron studies, detailed tomography crucial to understanding the micro-architecture of bone tissue and the wound area without destroying the sample. 

Dr Leshchinsky said: ‘We have previously carried similar studies, but with smaller resolution and found that the mammoth suffered from osteoporosis. 

‘This time hopefully the level of equipment will allow us to go much further.’

The video from Khanty-Mansiysk Museum of Nature and Man - where the pierced mammoth bone is normally kept -  shows how a number of hunters would have speared a weak animal unable to fight back.

It is believed the weapon was thrown with great force at the creature.

The discovery was made at the Lugovskoe 'mammoth graveyard' by scientists Alexander Pavlov and Eugeny Mashchenko in a swampy area where thousands of bones of mammals - mainly mammoths - have been unearthed by scientists since the 1990s. 

The current theory is that mammoth bone was burned with charcoal, the fat from the bone giving a superior heat. 

Artistic reenactment of what a woolly mammoth hunt looked like thousands of years ago, by Khanty-Mansiysk Museum of Nature and Man

Anton Rezvy, head of the palaeontological department of the Khanty-Mansiysk Museum of Nature and Man, explained: 'The vertebra was found in Lugovskoe mammoth cemetery….

'This cemetery was not some place where mammoths were coming to die. It was just a natural place with a lot of blue clay which is rich with salt, and the scientists believe that the mammoths came there for the salt that contained in the clay and that many of them got struck there.

'At Lugovskoe we found several thousand bones and we also studied the place using ground penetrating radar to define how much is left. 

‘We believe that there are still dozens of thousands of mammoth bones buried here.

'The vertebra that our museum expedition found in autumn 2002 has a hole in it and you can see the it was hit by a manmade made weapon.

'If you look closely inside the hole, you can see the piece of a stone flake. Such stone flakes were used by people of the Paleolithic Age to make weapons. 

'The bone weapon was supplied with stone flakes, in our case light green quartzite, and when one flake was broken it was easy to replace it and the weapon was used again.'

New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.


New tests underway on the ‘Mona Lisa of geo-archeology’ - a bone that proves man hunted the woolly mammoth.
Anton Rezvy, head of the palaeontological department of the Khanty-Mansiysk Museum of Nature and Man, the vertebrae and pictures of the hunt reenactment. Pictures: The Siberian Times


The depth of the spear hole is 23.5 mm and the width between 7-10mm.

'Ancient man probably used a spear or dart,' he said. 'Many people ask how did the weapon enter the body of the animal going through thick skin and flesh and enter the bone.'

He is convinced that the animal was alive, not dead, when it was forcibly struck by the weapon.

'There is much proof that ancient man used the mammoth for food, for example, there are traces of mammoth found on an ancient knife. But the direct proof, like this, that man was actually hunting the mammoth can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

'There is a dispute about how much humans influenced the extinction of the mammoth. Were mammoths actually hunted down by humans or did the the animals become extinct because of cold? 

'Some scientists use our find to prove the theory that man was the main reason for the mammoth's extinction. 

'But it is hard to make such an assumption is this particular case because we have to take into consideration that the mammoth remains were found in a muddy area where many of them were getting stuck. So even if the humans were hunting them here, it was more killing animals that were already stuck in the mud and had no way to escape.'

Anton Rezviy doesn't rule out that elsewhere humans may have been more of a factor but says that 'in Russia most scientists believe that it was the climate conditions that was the greatest influence. 

Osteoporosis also appears to have been a factor - caused by a lack of calcium, possibly caused by climate change. 

Comments (2)

the video shows a ice-free terrain, but mammoths were found in snow covered terrain, thats why they were woolly
Russia Man, Russia
13/09/2018 01:08
0
0
Just from a hole in the bone, its hard to say that it was caused by a spear
Russia Man, Russia
12/09/2018 15:12
2
0
1

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