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Mammoth Discovery Puts Humans In Arctic 10,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Estimated

Jan 15, 2016 01:29 PM EST
Frozen Mammoth Carcass
A frozen mammoth carcass excavated from the Siberian Arctic suggests humans arrived in the area much earlier than thought.
(Photo : Pitulko et al./Science)

A frozen mammoth carcass found in the Siberian Arctic suggests that early humans arrived in the arctic 45,000 years ago –10,000 years earlier than previously thought, researchers have revealed.

Injuries along the animal's ribs, face, and shoulders suggest it was likely killed by humans using stone or ivory-tipped spears. The carcass also exhibited some tusk damage, suggesting early humans harvested some of its ivory.  It was found along a coastal bluff on the eastern shore of Yenisei Bay, in the central Siberian Arctic and was so frozen that a team of researchers, led by Alexei Tikhonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were able to collect some of its well-preserved soft tissue.

"Mammoth tusks were the main target for them [early humans], providing raw materials to produce long points and full-size spears, becoming a substitute for wood that equipped spears with shafts," Vladimir Pitulko, lead author from the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Discovery News.

Mammoths were also a major food source for hunter-gatherers living in the Arctic.  

"Indeed, these animals provide an endless source of different goods: food with meat, fat and marrow; fuel with dung, fat and bones; and raw material with long bones and ivory," Pitulko added in a statement to Reuters. "They certainly would use them as food, especially certain parts like tongue or liver as a delicacy, but hunting for the ivory was more important."

Researchers say advancements in mammoth hunting would have allowed people to survive and spread northward, leading to an important cultural shift in human migration – one that likely brought humans close to the Bering land bridge and allowed them to enter the New World after the Last Ice Age.

The study was recently published in the journal Science

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