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World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic

By Olga Gertcyk, Anna Liesowska
19 August 2021

Ancient hunters butchered woolly mammoths at Taba-Yuryakh site some 26,000 years ago.

The northernmost human site of the Palaeolithic era. Picture: The Siberian Times

Experts have confirmed that ancient hunters resided on Kotelny, off the coast of Yakutia, at 75°20′N 141°00′E, a remarkkable 990 kilometres (615 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.

Their butchering tools have been found alongside multiple bones of extinct woolly mammoths. 

Scientists have restored 70% of the skeleton of one Palaeolithic mammoth on which these hardy people were feasting. 

‘This is a unique event for the Arctic and world archeology,’ said Alexander Kandyba, senior researcher at the Stone Age Archaeology Department of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, part of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences.

‘The mammoth was butchered by people. A large number of processed bones and tusk fragments were found. There are linear cuts, traces of chopping blows on the vertebra. People used a wide range of tools for cutting.

'There is not a single bone that would be without traces of human impact.’

He emphasised: ‘We are talking about the northernmost human site in the Palaeolithic era.’

World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic
Stunning discovery was made during a joint expedition this summer by the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk


This northern outpost affords scientists an understanding not only that man had conquered such northern latitudes but how he existed. 

'In particular, we now know how they butchered a mammoth,’ he said. 

A view that ancient humans were reluctant to hunt the huge hair monsters appears confounded by the new finds. 

World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the ArcticqWorld’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic
‘A large number of processed bones and tusk fragments were found. There are linear cuts, traces of chopping blows on the vertebra. People used a wide range of tools for cutting. There is not a single bone that would be without traces of human impact’. Pictures: Innokenty Pavlov/The Siberian Times


Dr Albert Protopopov, head of the department of mammoth fauna of the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia, said 70% of a newly found mammoth had been collected. 

A large number of tusk fragments were found, indicating processing of the animal’s remains.

He confirmed: 'At the moment, the Taba-Yuryakh site is the northernmost known place of human existence in the Palaeolithic era.’

Kotelny is the largest of the islands of the Novosibirsk archipelago, washed by the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea.

Previous woolly mammoth remains have been found here. 

World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic


World’s northernmost Palaeolithic settlement found on Kotelny island in the Arctic
Earlie scientific expeditions to the Kotelny island. Picture: Innokenty Pavlov/The Siberian Times 


However, at the time these ancient humans populated this outpost, it was joined to the mainland and the climate, while northerly, was milder than nowadays. 

A full scientific journal report on the exciting new finds is being prepared which will include evidence of human settlement here.

The discoveries came during a joint expedition this summer by the Academy of Sciences of Yakutia and the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk. 

Comments (8)

noting in this article indicated they lived there. it could be a good hunting place where hunters travelled to kill and butcher mamoths and then return where they came from with their bounty. it could be a like a seasonal hunting spot or a place to go when hunting in yoru home region is not so good. who were the people? there's no graves? just tools? hm.
tsoldrin, southern oregon usa
05/09/2021 03:01
1
1
Jimmy Evak: Google "pingo"
lise smith, oestervraa, denmark
27/08/2021 03:37
4
0
Is that picture of a whole mammoth real?Or artist?That is so amazing!
James, Alaska
26/08/2021 00:49
2
0
Do the researchers have an estimate of how much of the former ground surface has been eroded? It would be interesting to know how hopeful they are regarding additional sites.
Glenn Sheehan, Utqiagvik, Alaska, US
25/08/2021 01:17
3
0
These hunters would be homo sapiens sapiens, since there is no record of Denisovan or Neanderthal survival as late as 26k BP.
Robert Kerr, United Kingdom
23/08/2021 16:35
4
0
I am curious as to what those green mounds are in that one picture? Excellent article.
Jimmy Evak, Kotzebue, Alaska, USA
23/08/2021 06:29
7
2
Fascinating news as usual. Thanks, Siberian times.
Ömer Turan, Turkey
21/08/2021 14:37
6
0
Would be interesting to find out which people were doing the hunting and butchering. Probably AMH, possibly Denisovans or a hybrid population.
Caboco, Belgium
20/08/2021 22:59
5
1
1

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