It is possible that the oldest structures erected by prehistoric man, and therefore the earliest examples of architecture, were huts built from mammoth bones and discovered along the Dniepr river valley in Ukraine (as well as at locations in Moravia, the Czech Republic, and in southern Poland).

The mammoth homes that were discovered in Mezhyrich, Ukraine, could be up to 25,000 years old, making them a candidate for the oldest example of domed building. During the summer of 2013, the “Mammoth House” was featured at the “Frozen Woolly Mammoth Yuka Exhibit” in Yokoyama, Japan.
The mammoth homes that were discovered in Mezhyrich, Ukraine, could be up to 25,000 years old, making them a candidate for the oldest example of domed building. During the summer of 2013, the “Frozen Woolly Mammoth Yuka Exhibit” was held in Yokoyama, Japan. It featured the “Mammoth House.”

Some of the most remarkable examples of these mammoth bone dwellings were discovered in the hamlet of Mezhyrich, which is located in the center of Ukraine. In 1965, a local farmer unearthed the lower jawbone of a mammoth while he was enlarging his cellar. This led to the discovery of the settlement.

Additional digging uncovered evidence of the existence of four prehistoric shelters, with a total of 149 mammoth bones used to construct them.

It is generally believed that Cro-Magnon people were responsible for the construction of these caves, which have a date range of 23,000 BCE to 12,000 BCE and are thought to be some of the oldest houses known to have been erected by prehistoric man.

“They are made up of several hundred bones and tusks that have been arranged in a roughly circular pattern and range in diameter from 6 to 10 meters (20 to 33 feet).

In most cases, a hearth can be found in the general vicinity of the structure’s center, and stone tools and other types of trash can be found strewn about both within and outside the building. Near the dwellings, large holes that were filled with bone fragments, ash, and pieces of stone tools have been discovered.

A home in Mezhirich, Ukraine, fashioned of mammoth bones is seen here in an artist’s conception. Source: Dolní Věstonice Museum
It must have taken a significant amount of work to put together all of these buildings. Even after being dried out, the larger mammoth bones can weigh several hundred pounds. There is a theory that the bones and tusks were found from hunting expeditions in which whole herds of adult mammoths and their young were killed and eaten.

The theory that they were gathered from natural accumulations of bones, possibly at the mouths of creeks and gullies in the area of the sites, is a more plausible explanation.

The major function of the homes made of mammoth bones, which were probably wrapped in animal skins, was primarily to provide protection from the bitterly cold weather and the strong winds.

Some archaeologists, taken aback by the scale and aspect of the structures, have claimed that in addition to having a cultural or religious value, they also had political importance.

The phrase “monumental architecture as evidence of heightened social complexity and status difference during the final period of the Ice Age” has been used to refer to them. (Paul G. Bahn, editor, 100 Great Archaeological Discoveries [1995], pages 54-55)

The home was made of mammoth bones. Mezhirich’s case will serve as a model for the reconstruction process. Presented as an exhibit at Tokyo, Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science.
On the site, archaeologists have unearthed a number of other fascinating artifacts, including a map that was etched into a bone and appears to depict the region surrounding the town.

In addition to amber jewelry and fossil shells, the skeletal remnants of a “drum” carved out of a mammoth skull and decorated with a pattern of red ochre dots and lines were found. This “drum” was found alongside other artifacts.

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