Category Archives: RUSSIA

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.

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500 year old tattoos

Siberian Princess reveals her 2,500-year-old tattoos

The intricate patterns of 2,500-year-old tattoos – some from the body of a Siberian ‘princess’ preserved in the permafrost – have been revealed in Russia. 

The remarkable body art includes mythological creatures and experts say the elaborate drawings were a sign of age and status for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people, described in the 5th century BC by the Greek historian Herodotus.

But scientist Natalia Polosmak – who discovered the remains of ice-clad ‘Princess Ukok’ high in the Altai Mountains – is also struck about how little has changed in more than two millennia.

The Body of Princess Ukok, who died aged 25, had several tattoos on her body, including a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The tattoos have been perfectly preserved for 2,500 years.

‘I think we have not moved far from Pazyryks in how the tattoos are made,’ she told the Siberian Times ( SiberianTimes.com ). ‘It is still about a craving to make yourself as beautiful as possible.”For example, about the British. 

‘A lot of them go on holiday to Greece, and when I’ve been there I heard how Greeks were smiling and saying that a British man’s age can be easily understood by the number of tattoos on his body.  ‘I’m talking about the working class now.  And I noticed it, too. 

‘The older a person, the more tattoos are on his body.’ Dr. Polosmak added: ‘We can say that most likely there was  – and is – one place on the body for everyone to start putting the tattoos on, and it was a left shoulder. 

Researchers also found two warriors close to the Princess , and were able to reconstruct their tattoos. Here, one is shown with an animal covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back.

‘I can assume so because all the mummies we found with just one tattoo had it on their left shoulders.’ And nowadays this is the same place where people try to put the tattoos on, thousands of years on. 

‘I think its linked to the body composition – as the left shoulder is the place where it is noticeable most, where it looks the most beautiful. ‘Nothing changes with years, the body stays the same, and the person making a tattoo now is getting closer to his ancestors than he or she may realise.

‘The tattoo patterns are from the ancient ‘princess’ who died at around the age of 25 – and from two warriors found on an ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day  Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Princess Ukok’s hand with marked tattoos on her fingers. She was dug out of the ice 19 years ago, and is set to go on public display in the Altai Republic.

The reconstruction of the tattoos in the images shown here was released to coincide with the moving of the remains of the princess, dug out of the ice 19 years ago, to a permanent glass sarcophagus in the National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk, capital of the Altai Republic.  

Eventually, she will be displayed to tourists. Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled, her spiritual escorts to the next world, and a symbol of her evident status, though experts are divided on whether she was a royal or a revered folk tale narrator, a healer or a holy woman. 

Next to hear body was a meal of sheep and horse meat and ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold.  And a small container of cannabis, say some accounts, along with a stone plate on which were the burned seeds of coriander. 

‘Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification – like a passport now if you like,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘The Pazyryks also believed the tattoos would be helpful in another life, making it easy for the people of the same family and culture to find each other after death.  

The tattoos of one of two warriors found on the ancient permafrost burial site at Ukok Plateau some 2,500 meters above sea level close to Russia’s frontiers with modern-day Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan
Tattoos are clearly visible on one of the warrior’s shoulders. The designs are similar to those found on the Princess.

‘Pazyryks repeated the same images of animals in other types of art, which is considered to be like a language of animal images, which represented their thoughts.’ The tattoos were ‘used to express some thoughts and to define one’s position both in society and in the world. The more tattoos were on the body, the longer it meant the person lived, and the higher was his position. 

‘For example, the body of one man, which was found earlier in the 20th century, had his entire body covered with tattoos, as you see on the picture of his torso,’ said Dr. Polosmak. ‘Our young woman – the princess – has only her two arms tattooed. So they signified both age and status.’

The Ukok plateau, Altai, Siberi, where Princess Ukok and two warriors were discovered. Their bodies were surrounded by six horses fully bridles, various offering of food and a pouch of cannabis.

The Siberian Times said: “The tattoos on the left shoulder of the ‘princess’  show a mythological animal – a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. ‘The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. ‘And the same griffon’s head is shown on the back of the animal.

The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail is seen at the legs of a sheep. ‘She also has a dear’s head on her wrist, with big antlers. ‘There is a drawing on the animal’s body on a thumb on her left hand.  ‘On the man found close to the ‘princess’, the tattoos include the same fantastical creature, this time covering the right side of his body, across his right shoulder and stretching from his chest to his back. 

‘The patterns mirror the tattoos on a much more elaborately covered male body dug from the ice in 1929 whose highly decorated torso in reconstructed in our drawing here. 

‘His chest, arms, part of the back and the lower leg are covered with tattoos. There is an argali – a mountain sheep – along with the same dear with griffon’s vulture-like beak, with horns and the back of its head which has griffon’s head and an onager, is drawn on it.’

Traces of Siberian Genes Detected in Some Northern Europeans

Traces of Siberian Genes Detected in Some Northern Europeans

Stone cist graves from the Bronze Age in Northern Estonia
Stone cist graves from the Bronze Age in Northern Estonia

According to a fascinating new study combining genetics, archeology, and linguistics, Northern Europeans who speak Uralic languages such as Estonian and Finnish can thank ancient migrating Siberian populations for their dialects.

The majority of Europeans can trace their origins back to several ancestral populations, namely indigenous European hunter-gathers, early farmers from Anatolia (now Turkey), and Eurasian Steppe herders. European speakers of Uralic languages, such as Estonians and Finns, have DNA from ancient Siberians, which is unique among European populations.

The commingling of migrating Siberians with northern Europeans likely happened as some point within the last 5,000 years, but scientists have struggled to put a more precise date on it.

In the journal Current Biology, a research team led by archaeogeneticist Lehti Saag from the University of Tartu in Estonia has published new research that appears to finally answer this unresolved question.

By combining genetics with archaeology and linguistics, the team has shown that Uralic language speakers reached the Baltic at the beginning of the Iron Age some 2,500 years ago. What’s more, the migrating Siberians brought more than just their language with them—they also brought their DNA, the traces of which can still be seen in northern European populations.

For the study, Saag and her colleagues extracted ancient DNA from the teeth of 56 individuals who lived between 3,200 to 400 years ago, of which 33 provided samples robust enough for a DNA analysis.

The remains were pulled from Estonian Late Bronze Age graves dating to about 1200 to 400 BC and pre-Roman Iron Age graves dating back to between 800 BC and 50 BC.

“Studying ancient DNA makes it possible to pinpoint the moment in time when the genetic components that we see in modern populations reached the area since, instead of predicting past events based on modern genomes, we are analyzing the DNA of individuals who actually lived in a particular time in the past,” explained Saag in a press release.

Results of the analysis showed that Siberians reached the eastern Baltic no later than around 2,500 years ago.“We show that a component of possibly Siberian ancestry was added to the gene pool of the Eastern Baltic during the Bronze to Iron Age transition at the latest,” wrote the authors in the study. “Notably, the Bronze to Iron Age transition period also coincides with the hypothesized arrival of westernmost Uralic (Finnic) languages in the Eastern Baltic, supporting the idea that the spread of these languages was mediated by… migrants from the east.”

The transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age coincides with the diversification and arrival time of Finnic languages in the Eastern Baltic proposed by linguists, so it’s “possible that the people who brought Siberian ancestry to the region also brought Uralic languages with them,” said Saag in the press release. Archaeological evidence suggests the Siberians took a southwestern route to the Baltics, traveling through the Volga-Ural region.

Intriguingly, and consistent with other research, the analysis found that migrating Siberians introduced the genetic variants for light eyes, hair, and skin, along with an intolerance to lactose—characteristics that are still present in modern northern Europeans.

These traits can now be traced back to the Bronze Age in the eastern Baltic. As the authors noted in the study, the finding is “in line with previous suggestions that light skin pigmentation alleles [genetic variants] reached high frequencies in Europe only recently.”

Saag said her team’s research is significant because it’s a great example of where the field of studying the human past is moving. Insights from different fields, in this case archaeology, linguistics, and genetics, is “put together to gain as clear of a picture of the past as possible,” she said.

The paper is also significant in that the researchers “pinpoint the arrival of a 4th ancestry component in the Eastern Baltic,” one that’s “on top of European hunter-gatherer, Anatolian farmer, and Steppe pastoralist ancestry present all over Europe” which now separates most of the Uralic speakers in Europe from most of the other European populations, Saag said.

Looking ahead, Saag would like to study Iron Age migrations in more detail and conduct genetic analyses of individuals living during the medieval time period.