Quaternary International 276-277
Mammoth Bone Accumulation
Maquette tactile de l'habitat de Molodova I en Ukraine, Musée de l'Homme
A circular accumulation of mammoth bones found in Molodova I site in Ukraine, is potentially the oldest Mammoth Hut structure found. The creation of this structure has been attributed to Neanderthals and has provided significant insight into the possible relationship between mammoths and early humans as well as information on Neanderthal subsistence strategies .
Moldova I is a Middle and Upper Paleolithic archaeological site located in Ukraine, on the southern bank of the Dniester River . The site has 5 layers, with Layer 4, which dates to 44,000 BP , being the richest in lithic and bone remains. The Layer 4 bone assemblage is dominated by mammoth bones, the majority of which are well-preserved, that has an estimated population of at least fifteen individuals of all age classes both males and females. Five areas of activities were discovered: a pit with bones, an area with bones bearing on-food parallel striations and ochre, two areas with accumulations of lithic flakes and bones, and the most interesting, a circular accumulation of bones, thought to be a dwelling structure constructed by Neanderthals .
The accumulation of mammoth bones has been interpreted in various ways. Chernysh  described it as a Mousterian dwelling structure. Binford  disputed this view and instead interpreted it as a hunting blind. Klein initially interpreted it as a man-made structure, but eventually considered it as a natural accumulation . Stringer and Gamble  saw it as a circular symbolic ring tied to Neanderthal beliefs. Kolen  proposed that humans periodically settled and pushed away garbage thereby creating a ring of bones used as a base structure which he called the “centrifugal living structure”. Lastly, Hoffecker  suggested the hypothesis of a wind break for long term occupation .
The circular bone structure’s ring-shaped basement measures 5 by 8 meters on the inside and 7 by 10 meters on the outside. The structure is made up of 116 mammoth large bones: twelve skulls, five mandibles, fourteen tusks, 34 girdle bones, and 51 long bones .
According to a 2012 study , taphonomic changes caused by weathering, water percolation, and plant roots indicate the location of the bones in holes like the pit and the basement of the circular accumulation. Moreover, there is limited evidence of predator teeth marks on the bones demonstrating that these were not accumulated by predators. Lastly, the anatomical preservation, the age and sex features and the taphonomic data indicate that these bones were acquired through various methods of acquisition including hunting, scavenging, and collecting.
The mammoth meat has been consumed according to anthropogenic marks. Additionally, mammoth bones were purposefully chosen (long and flat bones, tusks, connected vertebrae) and put in a circular pattern. This mammoth bone structure could be interpreted as the basement of a wooden cover or as a wooden screen. The presence of 15 hearths, lithic artefacts, and waste of mammal butchery and cooking is characteristic of a domestic area, which was most likely the center of a periodically settled residential camp .
Based on anthropogenic marks, the mammoth meat has been eaten. Furthermore, mammoth bones have been deliberately selected (long and flat bones, tusks, connected vertebrae) and circularly arranged. This mammoth bone structure could be described as the basement of a wooden cover or as a wind screen. The inner presence of fifteen hearths, lithic artefacts, and waste of mammal butchery and cooking is characteristic of a domestic area, which was probably the centre of a residential camp recurrently settled. This suggest that Neanderthals were the oldest known humans to construct a dwelling structure out of mammoth bones .
1.Mammoths used as food and building resources by Neanderthals. Zooarchaeological study applied to layer 4, Molodova I (Ukraine)
5.Les sites a plusieurs couches culturelles de la region de Kostenki-Borschevo sur Don et le probleme de l'evolution de la culture du Paleolithique superieur dans la Plaine Russe
Matériaux et recherches sur l’Archéologie de l’URSS 59
Izdatel’stvo Naukova Dumka
7.Mezhirichskie zhilischa iz kostei mamonta
Izdatel’stvo Naukova Dumka
8.Ostatki musterskogo zhilischa na Dnestre
Sovetskaja etnografija 1
10.A Mousterian dwelling in the Dnestr area
11.In Pursuit of the Past. Decoding the Archaeological Record
Thames and Hudson
13.In Search of the Neanderthals. Solving the Puzzle of Human Origins
Thames and Hudson
15.Desolate Landscapes. Ice-Age Settlement in Eastern Europe
Rutgers University Press
This page was last edited on December 14, 2022 at 17:22:33 UTC