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Spur of terrain above the Amnya River: "This finding changes our understanding of early human societies"


Nikita Golovanov

Hunter-gatherers lived in caves: this cliché image may no longer hold up. Because already 8000 years ago, people built fortresses, as research work on a plant in Siberia shows. The settlement of Amnya is considered to be the northernmost Stone Age rampart in Eurasia. According to the researchers, it now shows that people were already able to organize themselves in a socially complex way back then.

The researchers collected samples on site and finally analysed them. In this way, they were able to confirm the Stone Age age of the site. "This finding changes our understanding of early human societies," said Henny Piezonka of the Institute of Prehistoric Archaeology at Freie Universität Berlin, who led the research project. It challenges the notion that it was only with the advent of agriculture that people began to build permanent settlements with monumental architecture and develop complex social structures. The research results were published last week in the journal Antiquity.

"Our new research shows that the inhabitants of Western Siberia led a highly developed lifestyle based on the rich resources of the taiga," said co-author Tanja Schreiber. According to the study, the prehistoric inhabitants caught fish in the Amnya River and hunted moose and reindeer with bone and stone spears. In order to preserve their stocks of fish oil and meat, they made elaborately decorated pottery.

The new research also challenges another established assumption: that permanent settlements with defensive fortifications were only associated with the emergence of peasant societies. Instead, the scientists have so far been able to identify ten Stone Age fortifications with pit houses surrounded by earth walls and wooden palisades. According to the information, the buildings demonstrate the advanced architectural and defensive capabilities of the taiga societies.

"The competitive nature resulting from the storage of resources and the increase in population is evident in these prehistoric structures, refuting earlier assumptions that there were no major conflicts in hunter-gatherer societies," Piezonka said.