Northernmost Paleolithic settlement found at 75°N | Polarjournal
A 26,000-year-old mammoth skeleton found on Russia’s Kotelny Island off the coast of Yakutia provides new insights into the distribution of humans during the Paleolithic period. Image: Wikimedia Commons

After the remains of a woolly mammoth were found on Kotelny Island off the coast of Russia’s Republic of Yakutia in 2019, scientists were able to reconstruct 70 percent of the skeleton. They dated the age of the skeleton at 26,000 years and found clear traces of tools on the bones and tusks during closer examination, The Siberian Times reports. The corresponding tools were found near the bones. According to the scientists, this is proof that there must have been a Paleolithic settlement on Kotelny – the northernmost in the world.

Kotelny is the largest of the New Siberian Islands off the coast of the Russian Republic of Yakutia (Sakha). In the Paleolithic, the archipelago was connected to the mainland and the climate was milder than today. Map: Julia Hager/GoogleEarth

The researchers’ discovery that this mammoth was killed by humans is a “unique event for the Arctic and world archaeology” according to Alexander Kandyba, researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The traces on bones and tusk fragments leave no doubt about human impact.

The Stone Age hunters probably cracked the skull of the mammoth with a stone to remove the brain. Photo: Academy of Sciences of Sakha (Yakutia).

Shortly after the find, scientists assumed that the mammoth was killed by Paleolithic hunters who came from Alaska across the Beringia land bridge. However, the results of their more detailed analysis of the bones, tusk fragments, and tools suggests that Stone Age people did indeed settle this far north at least temporarily. The Taba Yuryakh site on Kotelny is thus the northernmost Paleolithic settlement in the world.

Traces of cutting tools are visible on the ribs. Photo: Academy of Sciences of Sakha (Yakutia)

According to The Siberian Times, traces of human impact were found on every single bone. On the vertebrae there are linear cuts and traces of tool blows. In one of the shoulder blades, the scientists found remains of a spearhead. They also discovered numerous tusk fragments that were apparently processed by early settlers.

From the tusks of the mammoth, the hunters made tools, for example, to extract the marrow from the bones. Photo: Academy of Sciences of Sakha (Yakutia)

This unique discovery reveals that humans settled far to the north in early times, but also how they lived and, most importantly, the ways in which they hunted mammoths. The scientists are currently compiling a comprehensive report on their new discoveries.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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