Overarching period: Upper Paleolithic, 50,000 - 10,000 BP
Specific period: Gravettian, 33,000 - 21,000 BP
Carbon dating: 31,770 - 35,283 years old
Location:Sunghir - 56.18° North, 40.50° East
Site location country: Russia
mtDNA haplogroups: U
Y haplogroups: C1a2

Sunghire Skeleton The Adult Male at Sunghir [18]

The Sunghir Individuals:

The four individuals in this sample came from the Sunghir site, near the town of Vladimir, which is located 190 kilometers (118 miles) northeast of the city of Moscow in present-day Russia. These individuals were carbon-dated to between 31,770 and 35,283 years old [10], placing them in the Upper Paleolithic.

Two of the individuals were buried with 16 mammoth ivory spears [11]. All of these individuals were male. Skeletal analysis showed that two were boys between the ages 9 and 13 years-old. They were buried alongside a polished and modified leg bone of an older man of unknown age. This bone was filled with ochre and might have been a family heirloom of a recently deceased ancestor. The fourth individual was an adult male of 35 to 40 years old who was buried some distance away from the two boys [12]. This man had suffered from nutritional problems throughout his life and may have died in a hunting accident, which was determined through damage to his neck vertebrae from a sharp object [13-14]. All of these individuals were buried in a similar way, being covered in red ochre and buried with pendants, stone tools, mammoth ivory bands, and animal teeth, as well as mammoth ivory beads [12,15].

Genetic analysis of these individuals has focused on their relatedness compared with modern hunter-gatherers. Researchers have found that these individuals were from a small population that had a large intermarriage network which reduced the effects of inbreeding [10]. This is very similar to how modern hunter-gatherer societies operate today, and suggests that some of the social behaviors of these ancient people are not unlike those found in present societies.

All of these individuals belonged to the mitochondrial U haplogroup, which was the most common haplogroup among European hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic and still exists in Europe today although at lower frequencies due to the genetic contribution of incoming European farmers [16]. They also all belonged to the same Y chromosome haplogroup, C1a2, which is very rare among Europeans today but is common in Asia, particularly Japan and Oceania [17]. This haplogroup was more common in the Paleolithic, particularly in central Eurasia.