Abstract of the research program ANR Mammouths
The project is focusing on the strategy of game exploitation in Ukraine during the recent Upper Pleistocene, within the palaeoenvironmental frame of the mammoth steppe extinction at the end of the Pleniglacial. During this glacial period, a major extinct of large mammals occurs, among them the emblematic wooly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius, under the effect of abrupt climate events. This typical palaeoecological context is contemporaneous, in Europe, of the latest hunter-gatherer lithic assemblages from the Upper Palaeolithic. Subsistence practices of these Epigravettian prehistoric populations are based on large herbivore hunting with very specific and elaborate tools.
The Epigravettian (ca. 15000 B.P.) open air settlement of Mezhyrich offers a strong archaeological potential. Four oval mammoth bone dwellings have been discovered, surrounded by pits, together with numerous lithic and faunal remains synchronous of the end of the Pleniglacial. Mezhyrich will be the key site to develop new modern excavations in the pits, which should yield a very abundant material (computed position of the artefacts and spatial distribution) associated with in situ samplings for laboratory analyses. Other contemporaneous Ukrainian sites will be studied in order to engage comparative researches. Furthermore, zooarchaeological studies will be carried out in the material collection storage emplacements.
The interdisciplinary impulsion, involving innovative methodologies, will answer to this large problematic placed between human sciences and natural sciences. Combined analyses of osteological assemblages, archaeological artefacts, palaeobotanical bio-stampers and biochemical and geochemical stampers will be realised. New data will be placed in the geochronological framework of the end of the Pleniglacial, with the help of stratigraphic and microstratigraphic studies from the prehistoric settlements. The researches will precise interactions between human activities of the latest Palaeolithic people from Eastern Europe and their environment. Faunal and pollen analyses will be closely connected through a new “comparative taphonomic” approach. Considering the taphonomic filter is still very pioneering for zooarchaeological studies of faunal remains from Eastern European archaeological deposits. It is an important key point to support the hunting practical hypothesis.
The project implementation along three years will give the opportunity to value the potential influences of human hunting on dynamics of already weakened large mammal populations, in the palaeoecological context of the Pleniglacial ending.