Construction workers north of Mexico City accidentally unearthed a trove of 800 bones from at least 14 woolly mammoths while digging a garbage dump; it is “the largest find of its kind ever made.”
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History announced Wednesday that it had verified the remains of the extinct giants that date back over 15,000 years. They were uncovered in pits measuring six feet deep and 25 yards in diameter in Tultepec.
Some of the bones showed evidence that the carcasses were butchered, indicating that the site may have been a mammoth trap set by humans.
Mammoths were hairy giants that roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for thousands of years before disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period 10,000 years ago. They could measure up to 12 feet (3.5m) tall and their tusks grew up to 16 feet (5m) long.
“Mammoths lived here for thousands of years. The herds grew, reproduced, died, were hunted… they lived alongside other species, including horses and camels,” archaeologist Luis Cordoba told journalists.
Mammoths share 99.4 percent of their genes with modern-day elephants; their evolutionary path diverted at roughly the same time that chimpanzees’ and humans’ did.
The remains of species of horse and camel that disappeared from the Americas were also discovered at the site.
It remains unclear whether planned construction of the dump will continue.
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