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mammoths where they shouldn’t be

22 January 2016

Mammoths, or big elephants shall we say, are always a crowd pleaser which draws attention and the story at www.sciencenews.org/article/humans-visited-arctic-earlier-thought?tgt=nr .. where we learn a frozen mammoth carcase displays evidence of butchering by some of our ancestors. The problem is that the discovery was made deep inside the Arctic Circle, at 72 degrees N, in what we might call the northern region of central Siberia. Other kill sites are known just below the Arctic Circle but most of them occur well outside the region. The PR message of this news post from Science magazine is that this particular kill was made somewhat earlier than other evidence of humans living and visiting the icy wastes of Siberia north of the Arctic Circle. The find is dated to 45,000 years ago – by carbon dating sediments and a leg bone. Humans are known to have been in the same general region 30,000 years ago but this is pushing back the boundary a little further.

Marks on the animals tusks and slice marks on bones seem to indicate it was brought down by hunters and butchered on site. Palaeoanthropologists say this proves humans had worked out how to cope with the cold, ice, and sunless winters – but we might ask, what were big elephants doing in a frozen landscape?

Perhaps it was not frozen. This in turn may mean the Polar Circle at the time was somewhere else. We can ask ourselves that question but scientists with a career cannot. The fact is elephants need to eat a lot of vegetation. They are also slow moving and heavy. Why make life difficult for yourself by living in an icy environment. Presumably there were shoots of greenery buried under the snow – but why would they want to go to the bother? It was a lot nicer further south – and then there were the buttercups. Not only that – why would great big animals want to lumber around in six months of darkness in the year?

See also www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/grisly-find-suggests-humans-inhabited-ar…


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