The smoking gun 'proving ancient man killed woolly mammoth 45,000 years ago'
The bone was studied with X-ray computed tomography - a CT scan - by Dr Konstantin Kuper, from the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk. He also created a 3D model of the injury in the bone. This led to the conclusion that the tip of the weapon was made of stone and had a thinned symmetric outline - and was relatively sharp.
The bone was studied with X-ray computed tomography - a CT scan - by Dr Konstantin Kuper, from the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Novosibirsk, he also created a 3D model of the injury in the bone. Picture: Vladimir Pitulko
Paleontologist Dr Alexei Tikhonov, from the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, who lead the excavations, said: 'It's hard to say which blow was the mortal one, at least judging by the traces on the bones.
'There was quite a strong blow to the scapula, yet I think it was rather the totality of wounds that caused the death. It is interesting that the most of the injuries are on the left side of the animal.
'I would suppose that the hunters could attack the mammoth which was already lying on the ground. When we examined the skull, we noticed the abnormal development of the upper jaw.
'We believe that this mammoth got a kind of injury at a very young age, which impacted on its left side. There was no left tusk and I presume that the left side was weak, so it could help the hunters kill the animal.'
'A much more powerful blow damaged the spine of the left scapula. The weapon went through the shoulder skin and muscle, almost completely perforating the spine of the scapula.' Pictures: Vladimir Pitulko
The injuries found on the bones also gave clues what did the hunters with the mammoth after they killed it. The right tusk had the traces of human interference on the tip of the tusk.
They did not try and pull the entire tusk off the killed mammal but instead tried to remove 'long slivers of ivory with sharp edges, which were usable as butchering tools', said Dr Pitulko.
A butchery mark was also found on the fifth left rib, seen as evidence that the hunters cut meat from the carcass to take it with them. Ancient man also extracted the mammoth tongue, seen as a probable delicacy to these hunters.
Yet the theory that the animal was butchered does not convince all experts.
Dr Robert Park, a professor of anthropology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wrote in an email to Discover, that the skeleton is not consistent with other evidence from early human hunters.
The right tusk had the traces of human interference on the tip of the tusk. Picture: Vladimir Pitulko
He wrote: 'The most convincing evidence that it wasn't butchered is the fact that the archaeologists recovered the mammoth's fat hump. Hunter-gatherers in high latitudes need fat both for its food value and as fuel. So the one part of the animal that we would not expect hunters to leave behind is fat.'
But Dr Pitulko countered: 'Yes, ancient man - and not so ancient, in fact - has used and uses animal fat as fuel and food, nothing to argue about here. Why in this very case they did not use their prey in full is impossible to say.
'There may be dozens of reasons, for example - they could not - the carcass was lying at the water's edge, and it was late autumn. Or they did not have time: the carcass fell into the water on thin coastal ice. Or it did not correspond to their plans - they killed the poor animal just to have a meal and replenish the supply of food for a small group.'
They might have killed another animal nearer to their camp, and so abandoned this one. He said 'a thousand and one reasons' might explain not purloining the fat.
The expert added: 'I believe that the main reason for hunting mammoths were their tusks. Mammoth as a source of food wasn't very necessary although I believe they were useful.
'People needed tusks because they were living in landscapes free of forests, so called mammoth steppe. In the course of time, a technology to produce spears out of tusks was developed.'
On the significance for the New World, he told Discovery the human role in killing the mammoth 'is especially important' because 'now we know that eastern Siberia up to its Arctic limits was populated starting at roughly 50,000 years ago'.