Local archaeologists from Siberia were already familiar with the Amnya 1 fortress. Still, we had to wait until it could be determined exactly how old the fort was. That has now been achieved. An international team has determined that the fortress is approximately 8,000 years old. This means that people were already able to build complex defensive structures during the hunter-gatherer era.

Tanja Schreiber is one of the scientists who contributed to the research. “This discovery challenges the idea that only agricultural communities could build such monumental structures,” she says Sciences. “This makes it clear that societies had access to sophisticated architecture much earlier.” The research has been published in the journal Antiquity.

Fighting in the Stone Age
The fortress stood in western Siberia and shows a surprising number of similarities with defensive structures that we know from much later. “In the center of the fort stood the largest house with its own defensive wall around it,” Schreiber describes. “Surrounding it were smaller houses, each with its own defense using a combination of walls and dug ditches.” This was followed by the outer wall. Known as Amya 1, this fort stands on top of a rise near a river. However, there is also a village outside the walls of Amya 1 known as Amya 2: “Amya 2 is a collection of houses near Amya 1. The houses of Amya 2 have no defense systems.”

“Territoriality was probably an important reason why the forts were built,” Schreiber explains. “The nearby river allowed for rapid movement, providing transportation routes for goods and people. This means that enemies who might want to approach the fort by boat were taken into account.” Archaeological evidence found near the fort shows that it was indeed attacked a number of times. “We found burnt layers in the reinforced buildings. This means that the palisades and pit houses have been lit a number of times.” However, that’s not all: “We found arrowheads in the outer ditch of Amnya 1. It is possible that they ended up here because the fortress was attacked from outside.”

A photo of the settlement from the air with a map next to it. credit: from paper

Abundant life
According to the investigation, there were good reasons to attack the fortress. The fort was a storehouse of a lot of food, such as fish from the nearby river or meat from the elk in the forest. This allowed the residents of the fort to lead a refined lifestyle. “A sophisticated lifestyle in the Stone Age mainly meant that advanced strategies were used to make better use of resources,” Schreiber explains. “This allowed fish to be collected efficiently and they had spearheads made of bone and stone to hunt with. We also found decorated jars in which food was stored.”

For possible follow-up research, Schreiber wants to look at the social organization of the fortified settlement. In addition, according to Schreiber, it could be that even then people had to work together to cope with the climate: “An important question is whether the climatic cooling at the time ensured that the Siberian fortresses were created.” Whatever the reason, at least they were nice and warm and dry.

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