Russian scientists found signs of spear wounds in the frozen carcass of a woolly mammoth found in Siberia, providing evidence that people inhabited the Arctic thousands of years earlier than previously believed.
The mammoth excavated from a bluff on Yenisei Bay on the Arctic Ocean was killed by hunters 45,000 years ago, in the earliest indication to date of the presence of humans in the Arctic, the scientists said in a study published in the journal Science on January 14.
Until now, the oldest evidence of humans in the Arctic dated to about 30,000 years ago, said the researchers from a Russian Academy of Sciences' institute in St. Petersburg.
The earliest Arctic denizens likely were hunter-gatherers. Mammoths, the close elephant relatives that were the largest land creatures in the region, represented an important resource for them, providing food, fuel -- which could be made from fat and dung -- and bones and ivory for constructing boats and housing in the treeless region.
The mammoth, excavated in 2012, had injuries indicating it had been killed by people. Damage to its ribs appears to have been caused by spears thrown by hunters.