The Atlantic

An Ice-Age Squirrel Found by Gulag Prisoners Gets Its Scientific Due

“We should be very thankful to those unnamed prisoners who saved those carcasses.”
Source: Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

I’ve never read a scientific paper that so thoroughly gripped me in the first paragraph, so I will let the authors of a new paper from the journal Scientific Reports speak for themselves.

Readers of “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn might remember how the book starts: “In 1949 some friends and I came upon a noteworthy news item in Nature, a magazine of the Academy of Sciences. It reported in tiny type that in the course of excavations on the Kolyma River a subterranean ice lens had been discovered which was actually a frozen stream - and in it were found frozen specimens of prehistoric fauna some tens of thousands of years old” (p. ix). That very same news item in Nature (‘Priroda’) continued by reporting what Solzhenitsyn did not: that in May 1946 unnamed prisoners of GULAG recovered a nest with three complete mummified carcasses of arctic ground squirrels at a depth of 12.5 meters of the permafrost sediments of the El’ga river (the upper Indigirka river basin, Yakutia). The carcasses were

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