Trans Eurasia travel

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Paleonthology

Uzbekistan has a rich fossil record, both of plant life and of dinosaurs. The most important specimens to date come from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago) and have been uncovered at the Dzharakuduk site in the Kyzylkum Desert.

Excavations at the site, which first began in the 1970s, have revealed abundant remains of a very diverse biota including both mammals and dinosaurs. Large vertebrate remains were collected, as was sediment that could then be processed for microvertebrate remains. Well-preserved dinosaur bones and teeth have all been unearthed, from sauropods and even central Asia's first known ceratopsid. The discoveries at Dzharakuduk significantly contribute to our understanding of faunal evolution in the northern hemisphere during the Cretaceous Period.

Hominid remains were discovered in the Teshik Tash Cave in the Gissar Mountains south of Samarkand in 1938. The remains of a young male, known as the Teshik Tash Boy, were found buried with five pairs of ibex horns, possibly in an early funeral rite. Though assumed to be Neanderthal, there was little hope of telling as the bones were in such poor condition. It was not until the advent of DNA testing (and this too is tricky as fossils don't contain much DNA) that scientists were able to confirm that the genetic material was 98% the same as Neanderthal material discovered elsewhere. When combined with a similar discovery in Siberia, the Teshik Tash Boy has helped to prove Neanderthal man stretched far further east than previously expected.


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