Dr Alexander Pryor

Fieldwork

Kostenki 11, Russian Federation

Kostenki village is located approximately 500km south of Moscow on the River Don. The area is famous for the large number of Palaeolithic sites discovered in the immediate vicinity of the village, all dating to the Upper Palaeolithic period between approximately 50,000-18,000 years ago. Many of these sites show evidence for multiple levels of occupation, meaning over 50 individual Palaeolithic occupation deposits are known within an area of a few square kilometres.

One of these sites, Kostenki 11, is known for the spectacular examples of circular mammoth bone structures discovered there, usually interpreted as the remains of large Palaeolithic houses. In 2014 survey work revealed a new, previously undiscovered circular structure made of mammoth bone ‘dwelling’ complete with pits around the outer edge. Excavation work  started later that year and is presently on-going. Working in collaboration with the museum director Alexander Dudin and other local partners, Alex has visited the excavations in 2015 and 2017 to undertake a program of isotopic study of the woolly mammoth remains, and a program of flotation for the recovery of charred plant remains from the site. These samples are contributing towards Alex’s research into both Palaeolithic food storage, and understanding the role of the woolly mammoth in Palaeolithic subsistence strategies.