Scientists from the Russian Academy of Science in Saint Petersburg have discovered a well-preserved mammoth carcass in Northwest Siberia. The bones of the extinct animal display distinctive cut marks, which could only have come from hunting and butchery tools made from stone and ivory materials.

This discovery has allowed anthropologists and scientists to suggest that humans had migrated to the Arctic Circle some 45,000 years ago. This is exciting, as previous evidence had indicated humans weren’t present until 10,000 years after this date.

Prior to the discovery, evidence of human settlements in the Arctic Circle were found at Mamontovaya Kurya in European Arctic Russia. This discovery suggested that humans had migrated to Arctic climes a few thousand years after their first appearance in Europe. Before this, it was believed that this vast region was only inhabited some 14,000 years ago, at the final stage of the last ice age.

This discovery has given scientists a unique insight into the lives of early human settlers from 45,000 years ago. The marks found on the mamoth bones signify the skill and organisation that these early humans required to be effective hunters and tool makers. The injuries to the head and ribs of the mammoth support the theory that weapons were used to fell the organism, and is supported by methods used by elephant poachers today in African game reserves.

Human use of mammoths throughout their existence has been a huge driver of human development and survival, especially though the harshest parts of the ice age. Mammoths would have provided a high-energy food source and their coat would have provided ample warmth from the harsh winds and frozen conditions of settlements. Not only this, but their tusks and bones would have provided a vital source of practical materials in a landscape which was lacking in suitable supplies for tool and weapon making. Most of West Siberia was a frozen wasteland, with many resources lacking in abundance, which explains why the human-mammoth relationship was so important.

This scientific discovery has provided a new insight into the puzzling question: how did humans first settle the Americas? One suggestion from this study was that humans eventually may have crossed over the Bering Strait before it became impassable due to the severity of the last ice age. The research team stated that, “the finds don’t give an immediate answer, but allow thinking about the possibilities. It will give a new stimulus for further research”.