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27 September 2015
Petroglyphs in Siberia thought to be up to 10,000 years old

A new expedition to the Ukok plateau, some 2,500 metres up in the Altai Mountains, near the Russian borders with Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, has found evidence that a set of intriguing petroglyphs are far older than previously thought.
     Stylistically, the drawings match the Palaeolithic era, some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. If true, they will be the oldest in Siberia by several millennia.
     The Ukok petroglyphs are drawn onto glacier-polished rhyolite, a volcanic rock, usually on horizontal planes. Normally archeologists could obtain dates from surrounding sediments forming in clear layers, but the exceptionally windy conditions on this exposed plateau mean excavations around the petroglyphs do not reveal a clear stratigraphy.
     Siberian specialist Dr Lidia Zotkina, from Novosibirsk State University, says: "According to the preliminary data, the glacier retreated as early as between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. So that is when ancient people could access this place and create the petroglyphs."
     The rock with the petroglyphs is exceptionally tough. The glacier polished them, forming a lacquer-like crust, almost impossible to engrave.
     The scientists tried using the technique they believe was employed by ancient man. "We made an experiment and found that first we need to scratch the stone to prepare the surface and only then to make the engravings. We checked the traces of our scratching with the microscope and they coincided with the ancient ones."
     Dr Zotkina said: "Some big Palaeolithic sites where people must have lived were not found yet. The climate on Ukok does not help to preserve such sites, so we do not know who could make these Petroglyphs, if it is correct that they are Palaeolithic. But I think that it is a matter of the time. Sooner of later Palaeolithic sites will be found and we will get more information about the people who could engrave these images."

Edited from The Siberian Times (3 August 2015)

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