Kozya Cave

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The Kozya Cave is a new Paleolithic site located in the Russian Altay. Despite its small size and limited finds in it, the cave studies provided researchers with many insights into the ancient Middle Paleolithic inhabitants of the cave, who lived there between 55,000 and 45,000 years BP.

Notably, researchers discovered that the tools and fragments found in the cave were brought there by ancient humans who carried them while migrating through the mountains for many dozens of kilometers, since there are no sources of suitable materials for making stone tools near the cave.

Ancient humans did not stay in the Kozya Cave for long periods. Most likely, it served as a temporary refuge during migrations, possibly related to hunting. Moreover, the site was not used for butchering animals.

Kozya Cave

Location:  Russia, Altay Kray, Krasnoshchekovsky District

The archeological studies began in::  An expedition from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography SB RAS discovered the cave in 2020 during archaeological exploration.

Estimated layers age:  55 to 45 ka

Human species:  The Denisovans

The tool production techniques indicate that the ancient people who came to the Kozya Cave were not “late” Neanderthals like those found in the Okladnikov or Chagyrskaya Caves. This means they were not part of the migration wave from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and the Crimea towards Asia that began about 60,000 years ago. The Denisovans, another subtype of ancient humans discovered in 2010 in the Russian Altay at the Denisova Cave, also visited the cave. The discoveries made at the Kozya Cave demonstrate how far these ancient humans traveled. Researchers believe that this migration was driven by the movement of wild animals the ancient humans were hunting.

A detailed report on the new Denisovan site will be published by the end of 2024. So far, only three locations have been genetically confirmed as home to this human subtype: the Denisova Cave, the Baishiya Cave in Tibet, and Tam Ngu Hao-2 in Laos. The Kozya Cave is the fourth one.

Study history:

An expedition from the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS) discovered the Kozya Cave in 2020 during archaeological exploration. This is a small cave which was completely studied in 2021-2023. 

The most well-known finds are:

Stone tools (flakes, point fragment), a tooth of an ancient human, soil deposits containing confirmed Denisovan DNA