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Mesolithic fish and chips?

Mesolithic Fish and Chips? 8,000-Year-Old Meal Whets the Appetite of Russian Archaeologists


By The Siberian Times reporter

A Mesolithic meal found at a site on the Lena River in Yakutia has whetted the appetite of local archeologists. The remarkable discovery includes the skeletons of three fish of different sizes and four floats or bobbers - presumably used with nets for the catch - made from rolled birch bark which is still intact after eight millennia. 

Historian Prokopiy Nagovitsyn said proudly: 'I was the first one to touch these food remains of the Mesolithic people who lived here approximately 8,000 years ago. These were the Sumnagin people, fishermen who likely used nets because next to three skeletons there were floats. In the same layer I found a harpoon's spearhead. There is an extraordinary level of preservation of the fish skeletons. And birch bark is a material which does not rot even in thousands of years, as we can see after finding the floats.'

There is an extraordinary level of preservation of the fish skeletons. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov
There is an extraordinary level of preservation of the fish skeletons. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov
There is an extraordinary level of preservation of the fish skeletons. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov

There is an extraordinary level of preservation of the fish skeletons. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov

Victor Dyakonov, who organised the expedition, is a senior archeological researcher for the Yakutia Institute of Humanitarian Studies and Problems for Indigenous People. 

'The fish were found in the middle Lena area at Mukhatta site.'

He believed the ancient Sumnagin people were interrupted 'and didn't finish eating the fish'.

'We found three fish, lying on top of each other. One was quite large judging by the size of spine joints.'

The find was of 'a stash of fish which they caught and then for some reason left. 

'The largest had vertebra some 1 cm in diameter'.

Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov
Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov
Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov
Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov

Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old. Pictures: Victor Dyakonov

He said the four floats 'were made from rolled up birch bark'.

Nets were made in a similar style 'until very recently'.

Radiocarbon analysis links the fish supper to the Sumnaginskaya culture and it is believed to be around 8,000 years old.

The site contains older and more recent remains.

The Sumnagins were the first to move north and populate Siberia's Arctic tundra around 10,000 years ago. As well as fish, their diet comprised large mammals such as deer, moose, and even brown bear. 

Yakutia - officially called the Sakha Republic - is the largest and coldest region in the Russian Federation. 

Top Image: Mesolithic fish and chips? Source: Victor Dyakonov

The article, originally titled ‘ Pictured: the remains of a Stone Age fish supper from 8,000 years ago ’ originally appeared on The Siberian Times and has been republished with permission.

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