The Discovery of a Fortress Over 8,000 Years Old Overturns Our Knowledge of Prehistory

oldest fortresses

Based on recent dating, a study reveals that the fortress of Amnya, located in the Siberian taiga, is actually much older than previously thought. Built approximately 8,000 years ago, it would be the oldest fortress in the world.

The site, situated in the vast wooded plains of the Siberian taiga, has been known for a long time. Known as Amnya, archaeologists consider it the northernmost prehistoric fortification on the Eurasian continent. Its complex structure, consisting of multiple defenses (palisades, embankments, and ditches), made it a well-defended fortress. A construction demonstrating significant craftsmanship that experts had previously associated with a period only a few thousand years ago.

An 8,000-Year-Old Fortress

In orange, the various structures making up the Amnya fortress. Above, the site of a house; below, the defensive line with embankment and ditch © E. Dubovtseva
In orange, the various structures making up the Amnya fortress. Above, the site of a house; below, the defensive line with embankment and ditch © E. Dubovtseva

Error. A new study, published in the journal Antiquity, reveals that the fortress is much older than previously thought. Its oldest parts were constructed around 8,000 years ago, making it the oldest fortress in the world! This complex defensive structure would have been built long before the first fortresses appeared in the rest of Europe. This revelation challenges our perception of the capabilities of hunter-gatherer communities. Such construction indicates a societal evolution typically attributed to the advent of agriculture. This new estimate of the age of the Amnya fortress suggests that the adaptive and innovative abilities of hunter-gatherer populations in the Siberian taiga may have been underestimated.

A Fortress to Defend the Abundant Resources of the Taiga

Aerial view of the Amnya fortress (circle visible in the trees). Located near the river, it must have been a strategic defense site. Nikita Golovanov, Antiquity Publications Ltd
Aerial view of the Amnya fortress (circle visible in the trees). Located near the river, it must have been a strategic defense site. Nikita Golovanov, Antiquity Publications Ltd.

The prehistoric age of the site was determined through radiocarbon dating of artifacts found on the site. Researchers discovered numerous decorated pottery remains that were evidently used to preserve oil, reindeer meat, and fish caught in the nearby river. Despite the harsh conditions in the northern region of present-day Russia, it appears that hunter-gatherer communities adeptly exploited the abundant resources offered by the taiga. These resources likely facilitated the sedentary lifestyle of these peoples and the construction of fortified places like Amnya, securing specific fishing locations, for example.

Hunter-Gatherer Communities: More Advanced Than Thought

The existence of such a fortress indicates significant rivalry and numerous conflicts among the different communities in the region. The study reveals that fire significantly destroyed the fortress on several occasions.

These results demonstrate that the development of human societies did not follow as linear a path as previously believed and that the emergence of complex sedentary communities is not necessarily tied to the advent of agriculture.