A surprising number of archaeological finds have also been made in the area where mammoths roamed. And that is not a coincidence…
Meet “The Maijeh,” or “Elma” as it's also known: a 20-year-old female woolly mammoth that scientists have studied for years. Researchers are not necessarily interested in the mammoths themselves, but primarily in those who hunted the mammoths. By documenting Elma's more than 600-mile journey across Alaska and northwestern Canada, scientists have now made an important discovery: there are many ancient settlements along the hiking trail. These are so old that they were probably built by the first people to cross the Bering Land Bridge, which connected present-day Siberia and Alaska. The research has been published in the journal Advancement of science.
The lengthy investigation began when scientists found a tusk belonging to Elma near Swan Point in 2009. Located in the interior of Alaska, Swan Point is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the region. This area contains not only the remains of mammoths, but also the remains of humans. Scientists now think they know why: Woolly mammoths had fixed places where they roamed, and it's in these places that we can find early settlements. Scientist Audrey Rowe contributed to the research. “Elma visited the area that contains most of the archaeological sites in Alaska,” she says. It appears, then, that many early humans settled in areas where mammoths were common.
Scientists have charted Elma's journey by looking at the different layers that make up her tusk. Mammoth tusks grew just like trees: every year a new layer was added on top of the existing tusker, creating a “ring.” The chemical composition of this ring depends on what kind of food this mammoth ate during the year, and by studying these rings it was eventually possible to determine where Elma should be.
It is no coincidence that scientists put so much effort into recording Elma's walking path. First, scientists are telling more about the behavior of woolly mammoths. This is much needed, because it is very difficult to conduct research on this matter. Second, scientists have now found that early humans likely took advantage of the behavior of woolly mammoths by building their own hunting camps, where the mammoths would often visit and reside. In 2009, much more than just an elma tusk was found; Remnants of fire, stone tools, and the remains of other toys were also found in the same sites. Scientist Ben Potter contributed to the study and confirmed that: “This evidence reveals a pattern that shows that humans often hunted mammoths.”
Hunting became increasingly easier for early humans: due to changes in climate, the vast grasslands of Alaska were transformed into areas with dense forests. “Toward the end of the Ice Age, climate change fragmented open landscapes,” Potter concludes. This made mammoths less mobile, making them easier prey for humans. In the end, Elma met her end in a similar way; As a prehistoric snack for our ancestors.
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