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Siberia’s Eerie Whale Bone Alley: Giant Ancient Whale Skulls, Bones Line the Sacred Site

Apr 06, 2017 12:47 PM EDT
Whale bone
In a remote island in Siberia, a graveyard of whale bones were found lining the shore.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The tiny remote Yttygran Island in Siberia could easily be a forgotten corner at the northern tip of the country, but tourists have discovered one of the compelling -- yet eerie -- reasons to make the trip: the ancient graveyard of whales known as Whale Bone Alley.

According to a report from Atlas Obscura, hundreds of whale bones are found in the island. Most of them are jaw bones, ribs and vertebrae.

The bones, rising five meters high and weighing 300 kilograms each, jut out from the ground in two lines along the shore creating an "alley" that inspired the site's name. Between the alley, there are skulls and square pits that are believed to hold tons of meat years ago.

A report from Siberian Times and photographer Evgeniy Basov explained the history of the increasingly popular tourist site that was discovered by Soviet archaeologists in 1976. Archaeologists believe that Whale Bone Alley was constructed by Eskimos as a shrine and a central meeting site.

During a mini ice age of severe winters, Asians and American Eskimos suffered from a food shortage. Armed conflicts among the different tribes occurred until finally, the Asian Eskimos developed a military and political union that considered Yttygran their neutral religious and ideological base.

Some think male representatives from the tribes would meet here annually for sacrificial offerings and to share their community's issues. The site could have been chosen because the men can easily kill and butcher a whale here. The square pits in the ground could have been used to store the whale meat for the gatherings.

Locals from the island aren't so convinced about the sacredness of Whale Bone Alley. Some of the people in Yttgran Island explained that it's simply a collective site for butchering and storing whale meat.

However the mysterious Whale Bone Alley served the tribes in the island and beyond, it's still a compelling place to visit 600 years later. More and more tourists all over the world are mesmerized by the massive whale graveyard, flocking to Yttygran to walk amidst the bones in the now-famous alley.

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