The remains of a structure built from the bones of over 60 woolly mammoths were recently discovered on Russia’s forest steppe.
While anthropologists aren’t completely sure why the structure was built some 25,000 years ago, there are clues buried within its walls. Evidence of fires, vegetable food scraps, and even a possible food storage area were uncovered within the 40-foot circular building.
The structure was unearthed at Kostenki, a village on the Don River in Russia.
The village is a world-renowned treasure trove of Paleolithic sites, with nearly 20 in total.
Buildings like these have been documented throughout Eastern Europe before, though they are generally much smaller — more in the range of 10 feet in diameter. Called “mammoth houses,” the structures have been thought to help Ice Age dwellers escape the bitter cold.
Because of this particular structure’s size, however, archaeologists believe it had special significance. Archaeologist Alexander Pryor of the University of Exeter is the lead author of the study describing the find. He spoke to Smithsonian Magazine about the structure, telling them “Clearly a lot of time and effort went into building this structure so it was obviously important to the people that made it for some reason.” Marjolein Bosch, a zooarchaeologist at the University of Cambridge, agrees; She visited the site herself and believes the sheer scale suggested “it was meant to last, perhaps as a landmark, a meeting place, a place of ceremonial importance, or a place to return to when conditions grew so harsh that shelter was needed.”
We may never know for sure, but future discoveries should help us uncover more about these awe-inspiring creations.