Researchers have found dozens of circular structures made with skeletons of various animals in Ukraine and Russia.
Archeologists at the University of Exeter found 70 mysterious structures in Ukraine and the western plain of Russia made from mammoth bones. According to experts, the discovery reveals clues about how ancient communities survived the Ice Age in that region.
The analyses show that the site is more than 20,000 years old and that the bones probably came from animal graveyards. There are 51 lower jaws and 64 skulls that were used to build the walls of the circular structure, which measures 12.5 meters in diameter. Small numbers of bones of reindeer, horse, bear, wolf, red fox and arctic fox were also found.
These structures were used as housing and could be occupied for many months by nomadic hunters. Although it is not yet clear why they would have built permanent, labor-intensive housing, the scientists claim that this must have happened because the region had few trees during that time.
“This is a rare example of Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers living on in this harsh environment. What might have brought ancient hunter-gatherers to this site? One possibility is that the mammoths and humans could have come to the area on masse because it had a natural spring that would have provided unfrozen liquid water throughout the winter—rare in this period of extreme cold,” says Alexander Pryor, leader of the study.
In addition, the research also found, for the first time, remains of charred wood and other non-woody plants within the structure. This shows that people were burning wood and bones for fuel, and the communities that lived there learned where to look for edible plants during the Ice Age. The plants could also have been used for poisons, medicines, string or fabric.
The Ice Age reached the coldest and most severe stage between 23,000 and 18,000 years ago, in northern Europe, just when the site found by experts was built. Most communities left the region due to the lack of food and resources on which they depended to survive. Thus, as the climate continued getting colder, the bone circles were also abandoned, being covered by sediment over time.