University of Cape Town: Ural Paleontologists Discovered Early Pleistocene Bones in Tajikistan

Employees of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Laboratory of Natural Science Methods in Humanities of the Ural Federal University with colleagues from the A. Donish Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography conducted reconnaissance of two locations of the Early Pleistocene period. They found bones of large vertebrate animals: ancient hyena Pliocrocuta, Stenon horse, Schotenzak bison, several species of ancient deer and rhinoceros in Lohuti and Kuruksai tracts (Kyzylsu river basin, South Tajikistan).

“The tracts of Lohuti and Kuruksai were extensively studied in the 1960s-80s, then the research was suspended. We feared that over the past 30 years, due to geological dynamics in the mountainous part of Tajikistan, mudslides, and water flows, the deposits might have been destroyed. However, the layer remained open, accessible to study and saturated with numerous vertebrate bone remains. This is good, because the locations are extremely interesting for research. The Early Pleistocene fauna is represented there – sediments dated at 2.5-2.2 million years. They chronologically almost correspond to the sediments of Tavrida Cave, where we also conduct research every year,” says Dmitry Gimranov, a researcher of the Paleoecology Laboratory of the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Natural Science Methods in Humanities at UrFU.

Almost all of the findings were transferred for storage to the local museum of local history of the city of Baljuwon. Restoration and study of these samples, as well as the analysis of the data obtained, scientists will be engaged in the next season. At the same time, they plan to continue studying the sediments of the Lohuti and Kuruksai streams to supplement the available material with new findings of ungulates and prey animals. They managed to bring a small part of samples (teeth of ungulates) to Ekaterinburg. Paleontologists plan to restore and study them.

During expedition the scientists also described archeozoological material of four archeological monuments: the burial ground of the Late Bronze Age Farkhor, the settlement of the Early Bronze Age Sarazm, a fortress of Hellenistic times Zoli Zard and a medieval settlement Mustafotepe. There they found remains of sacrificial animals, specimens representing kitchen remains, and remains from a household pit.

“All bone remains belong to domestic animals. The exception is complete skeletons of a rat and turtle, which got into the cultural layer, probably without human involvement. The obtained data will help us to reconstruct the cattle breeding of the ancient population of the eastern regions of Central Asia,” explains Anton Kochnev, a researcher of the Laboratory of Natural Science Methods in Humanities at Ural Federal University.

In addition, during the expedition, scientists visited the Institute of Archaeology in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) and the Afrosiab Museum, with which they signed an agreement on cooperation and internships for UrFU students.