Young Mammoth Likely Butchered by Humans

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THE GIST

- The carcass of a well-preserved, frozen, juvenile mammoth carcass has been discovered in Siberia.

- The remains include much of the mammoth's pink flesh and blonde-red fur.

- Humans likely butchered parts of the mammoth at least 10,000 years ago.

A juvenile mammoth, nicknamed "Yuka," was found entombed in Siberian ice near the shores of the Arctic Ocean and shows signs of being cut open by ancient people.

The remarkably well preserved frozen carcass was discovered in Siberia as part of a BBC/Discovery Channel-funded expedition and is believed to be at least 10,000 years old, if not older. If further study confirms the preliminary findings, it would be the first mammoth carcass revealing signs of human interaction in the region.

The carcass is in such good shape that much of its flesh is still intact, retaining its pink color. The blonde-red hue of Yuka's woolly coat also remains.

"This is the first relatively complete mammoth carcass -- that is, a body with soft tissues preserved -- to show evidence of human association," Daniel Fisher, curator and director of the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, told Discovery News.

Fisher, who is also a professor, worked with an international team of experts to analyze Yuka. French mammoth hunter Bernard Buigues of the scientific organization "Mammuthus" saved the specimen from falling into the hands of private collectors.

Although carbon dating is still in the works, the researchers believe Yuka died at least 10,000 years ago, but may be much older. The animal was about 2½years old when it died.

Fisher described what likely happened on that fateful day:

"It appears that Yuka was pursued by one or more lions or another large field, judging from deep, unhealed scratches in the hide and bite marks on the tail," Fisher said. "Yuka then apparently fell, breaking one of the lower hind legs. At this point, humans may have moved in to control the carcass, butchering much of the animal and removing parts that they would use immediately.

"They may, in fact, have reburied the rest of the carcass to keep it in reserve for possible later use. What remains now would then be 'leftovers' that were never retrieved."