Category Archives: RUSSIA

Scientists discover unique carcass of extinct ‘pygmy’ woolly mammoth on island off Siberian coast

Frozen pygmy woolly mammoth carcass unearthed in Siberia could be proof of a new species of ice age beast

Scientists have discovered relics of Mammuthus exilis, or what they’re calling a “Golden mammoth”, named after the color of its seemingly strawberry blonde colored hair.

The discovery of the carcass proves the existence of a miniature or “dwarf” species of a woolly mammoth — something that’s never been seen by scientists before.

The remains of this “Golden mammoth” was about two meters (or about six and a half feet) in height, which is extremely small when compared to a typical woolly mammoth that was on average three meters (or around ten feet) tall.

The mammoth was found on Kotelny island in the Siberian region of Russia. Scientists have heard reports of smaller mammoths being found in this particular area before, but the discovery of this carcass solidified their existence.

Dr. Albert Protopopov of the Yakutin Academy of Sciences said that scientists “have had reports about small mammoths found in that particular area, both grown-ups and babies. But we had never come across a carcass. This is our first chance to study it.”

Dr. Protopopov working on Kotelny Island.
It has been preserved in permafrost for between 22,000 and 50,000 years. Picture: Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Sakha

Scientists have more to figure out, namely whether the discovery of the animal is a one-off or if mini woolly mammoths were specific to the region where the carcass was found.

The bones of what scientists believe were pygmy-sized woolly mammoths have been discovered in the Arctic region of Russia, but Dr. Protopopov believes that this “Golden mammoth” is an entirely new species of pygmy mammoth.

He believes that this species roamed the earth earlier and was not a rare breed, but an evolutionary adaptation specific to the location where it was found.

Dr. Protopopov was joined by a team of “paleontologists, archeologists, zoologists, botanists, entomologists and permafrost experts” on this expedition to Kotelny Island where the “golden mammoth” was discovered.

He told The Siberian Times, “I believe that this mammoth is related to the period of the heyday of the species, which was supposed to be in the Karginsky interglacial time (between 50,000 and 22,000 years ago).

Our theory is that in this period the mammoths significantly rose in numbers –  and this led to the biggest diversity of their forms. So we want to check this theory.”

Where the new species of the woolly mammoth was discovered makes this find all the more interesting. Koletny island, as well as much of the Russian Arctic region of Siberia, is completely frozen in the winter — including the sea.

An Arctic expedition was undertaken by Russia’s Defence Ministry on Kotelny Island.

The mammoth was found in what Dr. Protopopov describes as “an inaccessible place, and is almost completely buried in the ground in a tidal area,” making this discovery particularly remarkable.

Europe has been experiencing one of the hottest summer’s of record, and the extreme temperatures could have enabled the ice to melt enough to make this discovery possible.

It’s a find that has scientists extremely excited, and it’s quite possible that they have the unusually hot summer season to thank for that.

Excavation of the “Golden Mammoth” has been set to start in the summer of 2019, and it’s likely that scientists will be able to find more animals that have been as well preserved underneath the ice as this latest discovery.

Scientists may have found one of the oldest Christian churches in the world

Scientists may have found one of the oldest Christian churches in the world

Scientists may have found one of the most ancient Christian churches in the world by using muon x-rays to scan a mystical subterranean building on the coast of the Caspian Sea in the ancient Russian city of Derbent. Now, thanks to the clever use of scanning technology, we might finally know what the building is.

The fortress of Naryn-Kala in Derbent, Russia, dates back to around A.D. 300

The technology known as the muon X-ray is used by researchers to track the charged subatomic particles muons, generated when cosmic rays interact with Earth’s atmosphere.

As they pass through space, nuclear emulsion plates are used as detectors to ‘catch’ the particles and develop an image of where the muons passed through, and where they were absorbed or deflected. (This same method has been used on pyramids in Egypt before.)

By using this method to meticulously scan the subterranean structure, the team arrived at a suggestion it was once a vast church.

In fact, it could be the oldest church in Russia, dating from around 300 CE.

Until now, archaeologists had been split over whether this is the site of a church, a reservoir or water tank, or perhaps a Zoroastrian fire temple. Now, thanks to the new measurements, it seems that the first hypothesis has taken the lead in terms of probability.

The view from above ground.

“The unusual building, in which we have put our detectors, has the shape of a cross, oriented strictly to the sides of the world,” says physicist Natalia Polukhina, from the National University of Science and Technology (MISIS) in Russia.

“One side is two metres [six-and-a-half feet] longer than the others.”

Scientists can’t excavate what lies beneath the Naryn-Kala fortress because it has UNESCO cultural heritage site status (only a small fragment of its dome is above ground). Instead, they lowered detectors into the depths of the structure and spent four months scanning the internal dimensions.

The building appears to be around 11 metres (36 feet) high, 15 metres (nearly 50 feet) from north to south, and 13.4 metres (nearly 44 feet) from east to west. The dome is located at the centre of the cruciform design.

While the site has been referred to as a water tank – and was probably used for that purpose in the 17th and 18th centuries – the differences between this and another nearby reservoir suggest the building wasn’t originally used for storing water.

“It seems very strange to me to interpret this building as a water tank,” says Polukhina. “In the same fortress of Naryn-Kala, there is an equal underground structure of 10 metres [nearly 33 feet] depth, and it really is a tank. This is just a rectangular building.”

“As the archaeologists who began excavations say, during construction, the building was entirely on the surface and it stands on the highest point of the Naryn-Kala. What is the sense to put the tank on the surface, and even on the highest mountain?”

How the structure is thought to look.

It’s thought that the building was buried by the Sasanian Persian Empire after it took control of Derbent around 700 CE – the area is part of a crucial trade route between Europe and the Middle East and has always been important strategically.

The scan also revealed an unusual build-up of muons in the western wing, perhaps indicating particular architectural features that have been preserved and could eventually be scanned in detail using a similar non-invasive approach.

Now the researchers want to continue their work with further scans to produce a full-size image of what’s buried under the ground at the Naryn-Kala fortress.

Before too long we might be able to say for certain what this ancient structure was originally built for.

“It is strange,” says Polukhina. “Currently, there are more questions than answers.”

Archaeologists find an ancient skeleton buried with ‘2,100-year-old iPhone’

Archaeologists find an ancient skeleton buried with ‘2,100-year-old iPhone’

In the mysterious burial site called the “Russian Atlantis” AN extraordinarily 2,137 years-old “iPhone” was excavated from the tomb of a young lady.

After a large, man-made reservoir in Siberia was drain during the summer, the tomb of the old fashionista – nicknamed Natasha by archeologists – was discovered.

The object is in actual fact an ancient belt buckle made of gemstone jet with inlaid decorations of turquoise, carnelian, and mother-of-pearl

It dates back to the ancient Xiongnu empire – a huge nation of nomads that ruled the area from the 3rd century BC to the late 1st century AD.

In fact, what looks strikingly like a smartphone is actually made of black gemstone jet rock – with a regular pattern of semi-precious stones inlaid. 

And rather than being a pre-historic piece of tech, the block was actually used as an ornate belt buckle.

Archaeologist Dr. Pavel Leus said: “Natasha’s’ burial with a Hunnu-era (Xiongnu) ‘iPhone’ remains one of the most interesting at this site.”

The intricate inlays are made of turquoise, carnelian, and mother-of-pearl – as well as a form of ancient Chinese coin.

Atlantis Necropolis

Dr. Leus added: “Hers was the only belt decorated with Chinese wuzhu coins which helped us to date it.”

The find is from the Ala-Tey necropolis in the so-called Sayan Sea – a giant reservoir upstream of the Sayano-Shushenskaya Dam, Russia’s biggest power plant.

The 7inx3in treasure was discovered in the normally submerged “Atlantis necropolis” this summer month – when the reservoir is temporarily drained.

The ancient burial plot is usually up to 56ft underwater, according to The Siberian Times.

Graves of prehistoric civilizations dating from the Bronze Age to the time of Genghis Khan are also located there.

It comes after the two partly-mummified prehistoric women were found – they were buried with the tools of their trade.

One called “Sleeping Beauty” – dressed in delicate silk for the afterlife – was at first believed to be a priestess but is now thought to have been a leather designer.

The second was a weaver laid to rest with her wooden spindle packed inside a sewing bag. The reservoir covers 240sq miles but in summer the water level falls by almost 60ft – giving its floor the appearance of a desert.

A total of 110 burials have so far been discovered on an island in the reservoir. 

The burial site is located in the Russian republic of Tuva

“This site is a scientific sensation”, said Dr Marina Kilunovskaya from the St Petersburg Institute of Material History Culture.

She added: “We are incredibly lucky to have found these burials of rich Hun nomads that were not disturbed by (ancient) grave robbers.”

Another Atlantis site in the reservoir is called Terezin and has at least 32 graves closer to the shore. Scientists admit they are in a race against time to examine the sites and save priceless treasures from damage by the returning water. 

Hybrid Neanderthal Girl Shows Proof of Human Species Interbreeding

Hybrid Neanderthal Girl Shows Proof of Human Species Interbreeding

About 90,000 years ago, two people boinked inside of a Russian cave and had a child. Nothing totally unusual about that—except that these two people were from two different species.

A new genomic analysis by German researchers shows that an early human bone fragment found in Siberia actually belonged to a female teenager born to a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature provide the first known evidence of a direct offspring between these groups, a confirmation of scientists’ strong suspicions that the two species had interbred.

The discovered piece of bone. 

“This is an amazing finding, mainly because there were probably never many of these hybrid individuals around,” says Ian Tattersall, curator emeritus for the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology, who was not involved with the study. “It’s a bit like winning the lottery.”

Neanderthals and Denisovans are two of the closest extinct relatives of modern humans. Populations of both species roamed through Europe and Asia, and after the discovery of Denisovans in 2010 in the Denisova cave located in Siberia’s the Altai Mountains, the analysis indicated they and Neanderthals had split from a common ancestor about 390,000 years ago.

Denisovan Cave.

The two species were both on their way out of existence roughly 40,000 years ago. Scientists were almost certain they interbred with each other as well as with Homo sapien since the remnants of both species’ DNA lingers in modern humans.

The Denisova cave itself has a strange, windy history. Researchers previously found a Neanderthal toe bone estimated to be about 120,000 years old, so the cave probably changed hands rapidly over the years. Researchers have spent quite a bit of time analyzing the genome of the few Denisovan fossils pulled out from the cave, which was also home to the hybrid’s bone.

Dorsal view of the Denisova Neandertal toe bone.
Neanderthal proximal toe phalanx discovered in Denisova cave.

Researchers hailing from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology managed to get ahold of the bone fragment for genomic analysis, and they learned it likely came out of an arm or a leg, from a female teenager who died when she was around 13 years old. That might not sound like a whole lot, but it’s plenty of information to pull out from a shard barely an inch long.

But the team wasn’t done. After an initial round of analysis on the fragment’s mitochondrial DNA confirmed the bone belonged to an early human whose mother was a Neanderthal, scientists started probing the nuclear DNA, which is inherited in equal parts from both mother and father.

Shockingly, the bone presented near equal amounts of both Neanderthal DNA and Denisovan DNA. After confirming the analysis hadn’t been compromised by an error of some sort, the team realized the results meant the father was Denisovan. Moreover, the Denisovan father shared genetic material with another Denisovan woman who lived in the cave thousands of years later (whose pinky was found in 2010).

Meanwhile, the Neanderthal mother was most closely related to Neanderthals who lived farther west in modern-day Croatia, about 20,000 years after the female hybrid died.

The rarity of this discovery can’t be understated, but that excitement is tempered by the discouraging limits of what we can learn from the bone.

According to Tattersall, besides the fact that stumbling upon preserved evidence of an interspecies hybrid is extremely rare, the fragment doesn’t illuminate any new insight into the biology or behavior of Neanderthals and Denisovans, separately or in mixed populations. It’s still an astonishing discovery, but it’s difficult to use such a specimen to really piece together some new understanding of either species.

The interior of Denisova Cave.

That’s quite a shame. While we know plenty about the physiology and lives of Neanderthals, we know “practically nothing about the Denisovans, who are basically known only from their DNA,” says Tattersall. “We know they interbred with modern humans, too, but we have no idea what happened to them, except that they disappeared,” he says.

“Neanderthals bred with modern humans as well, of course, but the consequences for both species were minor, and the Neanderthals became extinct as recognizably who they were.” The new findings don’t tell us anything about what Denisovans looked like, what they ate, their social habits.

What the study does do is suggest interbreeding between past species of human was probably much more common than previously thought. The Denisova cave and its specimens imply that Neanderthals and Denisovans were living side-by-side, and they might have been forming familial units at high frequencies.

This wouldn’t be entirely shocking—the Denisovan father of the hybrid teenager, for example, exhibits genetic signs of having Neanderthal ancestors. But this also further complicates the question of why, if interbreeding was possible and perhaps common, Neanderthal and Denisovan populations remained distinct before they died out.

There are likely other Denisovans-Neanderthal hybrid bones waiting to excavated and studied, and most certainly more Denisovan specimens that could give us a better glimpse of what this species’ biology looked like and how they may have behaved—and who else they might have gotten busy with.

Severed head of large wolf found perfectly preserved in Siberian permafrost 40,000 years after it died

The severed head of large wolf found perfectly preserved in Siberian permafrost 40,000 years after it died

The severed head of large wolf found perfectly preserved in Siberian permafrost 40,000 years after it died
Scientists estimate that the wolf lived 40,000 years ago.

The sensational find is believed to be the world’s first full-sized Pleistocene wolf, and due to the high quality of preservation, provides new insight into the extinct species.

You never know what you might encounter during a casual stroll in Siberia. Local resident, Pavel Efimov, was walking along the Tirekhtyakh River in the Russian Republic of Sakha when he came across something bizarre: a severed wolf head.

But upon closer examination by experts, they found that it wasn’t just the head of any kind of wolf, but that of a prehistoric predator which lived 40,000 years ago during the Ice Age.

“This is a unique discovery of the first-ever remains of a fully grown Pleistocene wolf with its tissue preserved,” paleontologist Albert Protopopov from the Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences told The Siberian Times.

The head, which measures 16 inches in length and is larger than half the body length of a modern-day wolf, is astonishingly well-preserved with its fangs, thick fur, soft tissue, and brain intact.

Although this is not the first such discovery of an ancient wolf in the Siberian territory, other discoveries have typically been skull specimens or the remains of pups. This head is believed to be from an adult wolf aged between two to four years old when it died.

The incredible discovery was announced in a joint exhibition organized by Yakutian and Japanese scientists in Tokyo, Japan. Further analysis of the wolf’s DNA will be done by an international team of scientists at the Swedish Museum of Natural History.

By examining the wolf’s ancient DNA, researchers hope to learn more about the evolution of ancient wolves to their modern iterations.

The researchers have time-stamped the impressive specimen to 40,000 years ago during the Pleistocene era.

Analyzing the specimen’s ancient DNA will allow scientists to learn more about the evolution of modern wolves.

In addition to some genetic analysis, the ancient wolf’s features will be reconstructed using a non-invasive x-ray with which the inside of the skull can be examined without destroying the head.

The Siberian permafrost, which includes areas in northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland, has been host to other incredible archaeological finds in the past.

In fact, the team responsible for the recovery of this wolf head struck big in 2015 and 2017 with the discovery of several ancient cave lion cubs.

In 2017, one ancient cave lion cub was discovered around the same place by the Tirekhtyakh River in the Siberian permafrost territory.

Before then, researchers had already uncovered two other cubs — which scientists named Uyan and Dina — in 2015. The two cubs were unearthed on the banks of a different river still in the permafrost region.

“Everyone was amazed then and did not believe that such a thing is possible, and now, two years later, another cave lion has been found in the Abyiski district,” Protopopov said then.

Researchers dated all three cub specimens between 20,000 to 50,000 years ago, around the same time the ancient cave lion population became extinct.

CT scan of the wolf’s skull.

Like the wolf’s head, the lion cubs were incredibly well-preserved. The Cubs had all their limbs intact and showed no external injuries. The prehistoric animals were so perfect that they sparked a sudden interest among some scientists to clone the little beasts.

Just this past year, a 40,000-year-old extinct horse and 50,000-year-old wolf pup were also uncovered in the permafrost.

The ancient cave lion cubs were placed side-by-side with the new wolf specimen during the recent announcement by the researchers. The ancient wolf head has yet to ignite the same cloning discussion, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t in the future.