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Mammoth Bone Homes Are Believed To Be The Earliest Forms Of Architecture

by rrollins, September 14, 2021

Image via Nandaro / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Long before houses of straw, wooden sticks, and brick came along, there were mammoth bone dwellings—said to be the earliest proof of architecture set up by prehistoric man, the Cro-Magnon.

Earthly Mission profiled these curious structures from 23,000 BCE to 12,000 BCE, excavated along Ukraine’s Dniepr river valley; in Moravia, Czech Republic; and in southern Poland.

One of the most compelling discoveries of these domes happened in 1965, when a farmer in the Ukrainian village of Mezhyrich was expanding his cellar and dug up the lower jawbone of a mammoth. Later investigations turned up 149 mammoth bones that would have made up four early dwellings.

The circular huts, stretching 20 to 33 feet in diameter, would typically be constructed from hundreds of bones and tusks, according to As you can imagine, they fulfilled modest needs, with a hearth in the center for warmth and even animal skins on the exterior to protect from extreme weather conditions. Archaeologists also found stone tools around the dwellings, which would have been “scattered within and outside the structure.”

Image via Momotarou2012 / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In spite of their simple appearances, it would have taken a significant amount of strength to build the houses, given that mammoth bones can weigh hundreds of pounds. While it has been thought that the body parts could have been obtained from hunting sessions where adult mammoths and their offspring were slaughtered, British archaeologist Paul Bahn believes that the materials were, instead, collected from nearby waterways after natural deaths of the creatures.

[via Earthly Mission, images via various sources]

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