A mammoth bone structure that was discovered at a Russian excavation site called Kostensky 11 was dated with radiocarbon and found to be more than 20,000 years old. This could classify it as the oldest circular structure built by people in the region.
Research compiled by a collaboration of international research institutes and published on Tuesday in Antiquity magazine shows that 51 mandibles and 64 individual mammoth skulls were used to build the 30 by 30 foot walls of the unusual structure.
In addition to mammoth skulls, various reindeer, horse, bear, wolf and fox bones were found at the site, which is about 300 miles south of Moscow.
“Kostenki 11 is a rare example of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers who live in this harsh environment,” said Dr. Alexander Pryor, archaeologist at Exeter University and lead author of the study, in a statement. “What could old hunters and gatherers have brought to this place? One possibility is that the mammoths and humans have come to the area en masse because they had a natural spring that would have supplied unfrozen liquid water all winter – rarely in this one Time of extreme cold. “
Charred wood was also found in the circular structure, which led the scientists to conclude that people burned both wood and bone as fuel. In addition to the wood, the scientists also found 50 charred plant seeds at the site.
“These finds shed new light on the purpose of these mysterious sites,” said Pryor. “Archeology shows us more about how our ancestors survived in this desperately cold and hostile environment at the height of the last ice age. Most of the other places in similar latitudes in Europe had been abandoned at that time, but these groups had managed to get themselves together find food, shelter and water to adapt. “
Although scientists understand better what these circular structures are made of, they cannot be sure whether the structures were used for ceremonial events or for food storage, mainly because the large diameter of the circle indicates that it would have been difficult to have a roof to add.
“The unexpected finding of an apparently short-term or less intensive occupation in K11-Ia raises important questions regarding the function and use of circular mammoth bone structures in general, which took a considerable amount of time and energy to set up,” the study says.