Molodova I

Site type:
Open air
Site function:
Habitation site
48.34, 26.5
Date range max:
40,000 Bp
Homo neanderthalensis
Time periods:
Pleistocene, Tarantian
Maquette tactile de l'habitat de Molodova I en Ukraine, Musée de l'Homme

Maquette tactile de l'habitat de Molodova I en Ukraine, Musée de l'Homme

Molodova I is a multistratified Middle and Upper Paleolithic open-air site in Ukraine known for providing evidence of the possible earliest use of mammoth bones as a building material. This discovery provided significant data on the possible relationship between mammoths and early humans, as well as more information on Neanderthal subsistence strategies [1].


Age MinAge Max
Mammoth Bone AccumulationMammoth Bones4400044000


The Molodova I archaeological site is located in western Ukraine, on the southern bank of the Dniester River in the Chernovtsy province [2]. It is made up of five Middle Paleolithic layers (Molodova 1 to 5), three Upper Paleolithic occupations, and one Mesolithic occupation. Layer 4 is the richest in lithic and bone remains, covering an area of 1,200 m2 at a depth of 9.5 m. It is 20 cm thick and composed of fine-grained sandy sediments with clay lenses. A charcoal recovered from a hearth was dated to 44,000 years ago, and microfauna, malacofauna, and palynological data link the Layer 4 occupation to the MIS 3 or inter-Pleniglacial [3][4][5][1].

Botez discovered Molodova I in 1928. Botez and Morosan conducted the first excavations in 1931 and 1932, identifying several layers associated with Mousterian and Upper Paleolithic settlements [6][7][8][9][10][1].  In 1955, Chernysh started excavations of layer 4 in the southwest part of the site.  The center and northeast areas were excavated over the next two decades, from 1982 to 1984. Chernysh, Goretsky, and Ivanova did considerable work in excavating and studying nine cultural layers, particularly the Mousterian layer [4][11][1].



The artefacts from Layer 4 are the most representative of the site among the five Mousterian layers. Dated to the Inter-Pleniglacial Period (MIS 3), Layer 4 has yielded 40,000 lithic materials associated with approximately 3,000 mammal bones. The Layer 4 bone assemblage is dominated by mammoth bones, the majority of which are well-preserved, with an estimated population of at least fifteen individuals of all age classes both males and females. The quantity of mammoths, the number of artefacts, and the construction of such a structure are characteristics of a temporary and recurrent camp and a potential gathering place for a number of human groups [12][1]

Several areas have been excavated, including a pit filled with bones, various areas of activities (butchering, tool production), twenty-six hearths, and a circular accumulation made of mammoth bones, described as a Neanderthal dwelling structure [12][1].

The stone tools from the site, which include points, simple side scrapers, and retouched blades, appear to be Levallois or transitional to Levallois, suggesting that Molodova I was occupied by Neanderthals using a Mousterian tool kit [5]. The number and variation of the lithic material also suggest a long or recurrent occupation. Layer 4 could have also been a lithic workshop. Microscopic observations have also revealed that lithic artefacts were used as projectile weapons to hunt game. They were also used as tools to process wood and butcher animals [4][13][1].


Potential Mammoth Bone Structure

The Molodova I site sparked a debate within the scientific community concerning the interpretation of a circular mammoth bone accumulation from Layer 4. Mammoths dominate the bone assemblage, with a population estimated to be at least fifteen individuals of all age classes, both males and females. The accumulation has been described as a Mousterian dwelling structure constructed by Neanderthals during the Middle Paleolithic [14], but this interpretation is not universally accepted [15][16][17]. If this is the case, it would be the oldest use of mammoth bones as building material, providing significant insight into the relationship between mammoths and early humans, as well as the Neanderthals’ subsistence strategies [1]


Cited References

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  2. 2.

  3. 3.

  4. 4.

  5. 5.

  6. 6.

    Noi contributii preistorice asupra Basarabiei de Nord

    Academia Româna, Memoriile sectiunii stiintifice, seria 3,6 (1)

  7. 7.

  8. 8.

  9. 9.

    Date paleolitice pentru stratigrafia loessului în nordul bessarabiei

    Academia Romana, Memoriilesectiuniistiintifice, III 7 (5)

  10. 10.

    Recherches sur la Paléontologie Humaine au Nord de la Bessarabie

    Annales Scientifiques de l’Université de Ias¸ i17 (3-4)

  11. 11.

  12. 12.

  13. 13.

  14. 14.

  15. 15.

  16. 16.

  17. 17.

This page was last edited on December 9, 2022 at 18:16:24 UTC