A SIBERIAN JAW THAT COULD UNLOCK OUR GENETIC SECRETS
Unique Paleolithic prize for scientists, a jaw of an early human who 'feasted on woolly mammoth' - but may have been cannibalized. Embedded in a hillside where it has lain for around 14,000 years, the adult jaw from Afontova mountain on the outskirts of Krasnoyarsk was found alongside the bones of animals and ancient tools.
Detailed DNA analysis, probably in Germany, will indicate to experts the age, gender, race (Caucasian or Mongoloid or a mix), and even possible diseases from ancient times. Scientists will examine the jaw, which includes teeth, for evidence of ancient cannibalism, an initial suspicion which they cannot immediately confirm, but also for the possibility that mammoth meat was part of his diet.
These human remains did not lie in a grave but alongside the remnants of animals that were butchered, said research fellow Ivan Stasyuk. 'Why cannibalism? Because this jaw lies alongside weapons and chipped of bones of large ungulates,' he said, surmising that this human was slaughtered, and eaten, too.
'I would not jump to the conclusion of cannibalism,' countered his colleague Leonid Galuhin, also a research fellow at the company 'Krasnoyarsk Geoarheologiya', the deputy leader of excavation. 'For now the jaw has been taken to a Novosibirsk laboratory for all analyses, including trasological analysis, which will allow us to say for sure if there act of cannibalism or not.' The jaw is likely to be sent to the world famous Max Plank laboratory in Germany for a full scale DNA analysis.
'Findings of the bones of Paleolithic man are very rare,' said Galuhin. 'There are not many such findings in the world. To us, these are extremely rare discoveries. This jaw is really unique because it is perfectly preserved. We can glean a lot of data: age, gender, race, even some diseases.
This site, an ancient camp, has been researched since the late 19th century and has given us a lot of material, not just debris, but thousands of complete stone and bone tools. During our current excavations we hope to find probably not the same amount, but very close to this. Apart from stone and bone tools, we found a set of stone beads and some pieces of art including a triangular plate made of mammoth tusk with plotted points. It was probably a pendant.' The site is, in fact, a complex of ancient camps. Afontova gora (mountain) 2 has two parts. One is an area where butchered animal carcasses have been found, along with tools for dissecting meat.
Mammoth meat was part of the diet of these Siberians, he is certain. 'The climate was quite severe here, akin to modern Taymyr, for example.'The current excavation covering 10,000 meters is being conducted because of the construction of a new bridge - the fourth - across the Yenisei River in Kransoyarsk.
This 'rescue excavation' - expected to bring a wealth of new finds - may lead to the the creation of a special museum dedicated to this site, a long-held dream of archeologists. The site is on the right bank of the river and over many years bone and antler tools as well as items of personal adornment have been recovered. Fauna remains include mammoth, reindeer, sheep, horse, aurochs/bison, ibex, saiga antelope, red deer, hares, arctic foxes and wolves.