14-Inch 'Spear' Made of Tusk Found Inside Woolly Mammoth Skeleton in Siberia

A complete mammoth skeleton is displayed before its auction by Aguttes auction house in Lyon, France, on November 17. Emmanuel Foudrot/Reuters

Scientists in eastern Russia have found what they believe is a primitive weapon, lodged inside the skeleton fragments of a woolly mammoth, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

The 14-inch curved object appears to be made from mammoth tusk and resembles the sharp, polished end of a spear—and the fact that it was found among the ribs of the animal's remains suggested it might have been used as a weapon, according to researchers for the Northeastern Federal University in Russia.

The university's Museum of the Mammoth in the Siberian city of Yakutsk will now study the item found in the Sakha region's northeast.

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Discussing the likelihood of the object being a spear-like tool, the chief science associate at the university's mammoth museum, Semyon Grigoriev, told RIA, "The necessary tests have not been conducted yet. In particular the age of the artifact remains to be determined and whether it was a spear used as the murder weapon for the mammoth whose bones it was found in."

The area where the item was found in Russia's northeast falls in the Sakha's Ust-Yansky district, where mammoth findings are so celebrated that the official crest features a woolly mammoth. It is a renowned site for archaeological findings from the Paleolithic era.

"The spear was carefully polished, it was ground, most likely, with a stone," said Alexander Stepanov, the deputy director of the region's archaeology museum, RIA reported. He noted that the formation of the artifact was apparently deliberate.

Grigoriev has previously said that the techniques used to shape such spearheads date back to around 12,000 years ago—a couple of millennia before the extinction of mammoths. Most animals among the Ice Age giants died out around 10,500 years ago, but scientists have found that a few members survived several thousand years longer, marooned on Arctic islands.

Mammoths on Alaska's St. Paul Island, floating in the Bering Sea, lived on for another 5,000 years, while the last known mammoth died on Wrangel Island, off the coast of northern Siberia, some 4,000 years ago.

Scientists attribute the extinction of the mammoths to several factors, including human hunting, and the environmental changes the Earth went through near the end of the species' existence, most notably, the end of the last Ice Age.

The last mammoth specimens that perished off the mainland likely also struggled to find fresh watering holes, new research shows, suggesting dehydration may have been the final nail in the coffin of the furry giants.