Osteoporosis, not man, killed the mammoths?

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A mammoth graveyard in southern Russia shows no sign of significant human activity according to a new documentary.  The documentary also reveals that 40 percent of woolly mammoth bones indicate osteoporosis.  While this doesn’t let early man off the hook in terms of hunting mammoth populations elsewhere, it shows it wasn’t a factor in this case.  The other interesting aspect of this news article from The Siberian Times what may have drawn mammoths to the site:  salt.

Paleothithic man ‘not the main cause of deaths at vast mammoth graveyard’

By Olga Gertcyk

22 February 2016

Experts say no sign of any human settlements close to ‘largest necropolis in Asia for the extinct beasts’.

While a few human implements have been found at Mammoth village, there is a striking lack of man’s presence at the probably most recent known large cemetery for the ancient giants, according to a new documentary from Tomsk State University.

The film appears to clear Paleothithic man of having much to do with the demise of the species here, although the creatures were clearly filleted for meat and hide, and their tusks were purloined some 10,000 to 14,000  years ago.

All the implements were not made of local stone, and in fact came from hundreds of kilometres away from the site in Novosibrisk region that may hold the key to why the the mammoths finally died out. They were less weapons than butchering tools, it is believed.

So man did not live close to a place where the ailing mammoths came to die, but visited to raid the enfeebled animals after they tramped here from huge distances.

Paleontologists want to massively extend excavations at the site, known as Volchya Griva at Mamontovoye – or Mammoth – village after a dig in 2015 resulted in the discovery of more than 600 bones and teeth.

Eminent Soviet archeologist Aleksei Okladnikov in 1969 noticed how at the site ‘bones were lying at the same level horizontally – and had no marks of any sort of catastrophic influence’.

The short documentary cites a number of leading experts noting the lack of human presence at the site. Academician Dr Vyacheslav Molodin, an archeologist, one of the first researchers at Volchya Griva, said: ‘Of course when I went there I was hoping to find some human dwelling. But, unfortunately, we didn’t find it.’

Dr Vasily Zenin, of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: ‘It was expected to find a Paleolitic dwelling there, perhaps, some religious constructions.’ However, ‘when we started digging, it became obvious that presence of humans was very limited. There were no conditions for a permanent settlement in Volchya Griva or around it.’

Equally, the half dozen mammoth remains found during research in summer 2015 all appeared to have died relatively young. The creature had a lifespan of 60 to 80 years, but of the six animals found here included two that died between one and 12 years old, one under a year old and two between 12 and 25 years. Two were older than 25.

Intriguingly, some 40% of the woolly mammoth bones found here show signs of bone diseases.

The Siberian Times has examined previously the theory of Dr Sergey Leshchinsky, head of the Laboratory of continental ecosystems of Mesozoic and Cenozoic of  Tomsk State University, that osteoporosis was a key factor in the demise of the animals, and that the reason they came to this site was because it was a ‘salt lick’ offering them the chance to rectify mineral deficiencies…

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