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The Berelekh quest: A review of forty years of research in the mammoth graveyard in northeast Siberia

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Abstract

The Berelekh mammoth graveyard became known following its first scientific description in 1947. Both the “graveyard” and the “archaeological site” were investigated in the early 1970s, and then systematic investigations ended. This article reviews all the available data from a range of sources and provides a complete set of the 36 14C dates so far obtained for the Berelekh geoarchaeological complex. The host deposits of the Berelekh bone bed (or mammoth graveyard) accumulated between 14,000 and 11,000 14C yr B.P., with the most intensive accumulation of bones around 12,300 14C yr B.P. There is almost no chronological overlap between the “graveyard” and “archaeological site” at the same location. Episodes of human habitation near the bone bed, which produced the Late Palaeolithic Berelekh archaeological site, were related to the exploitation of natural mass mammoth accumulation, which was a valuable source of raw material, such as ivory and long bones. The youngest mammoth remains date to 11,800 14C yr B.P. and have no cultural relation to the Dyuktai archaeological culture. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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