200 Mammoths Skeletons Found at Mexico Airport Construction Site – Video

Mammoth

In MEXICO CITY, 200 mammoth skeletons recovered at an airport construction site north of Mexico City, and there are more which are still to be excavated, experts said Thursday.

Archaeologists said that the site is now become “mammoth central” — the shores of an ancient lakebed that trapped mammoths in its marshy soil — may help solve the mystery of their extinction.

Experts said that discoveries are still being made at the site and there are signs that humans may have made tools from the bones of the lumbering animals that died around 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

There are so many mammoths at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport that Archaeologists have to be with each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is stopped when mammoth bones are discovered.

“We have about 200 mammoths, about 25 camels, five horses,” said archaeologist Rubén Manzanilla López of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, indicating to animals that went extinct in the Americas. The site is only about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from artificial pits, quite shallow mammoth traps, that were dug by early humans to trap and kill mammoths in great numbers.

Manzanilla López said the proof is starting to emerge that implies even if the mammoths at the airport probably died natural deaths after becoming stuck in the mud of the old lake bed, their remains may have been cut up by humans, somewhat like those found at the mammoth-trap site in the hamlet of San Antonio Xahuento, in the close by township of Tultepec.

While tests are still being done on the mammoth bones to try to find potential butchering marks, archaeologists have discovered dozens of mammoth-bone tools — usually shafts used to hold tools or carving implements — like the ones in Tultepec.

“Here we have found evidence that we have the same kind of tools, but until we can do the laboratory studies to see marks of these tools or possible tools, we can’t say we have evidence that is well-founded,” Manzanilla López said.

Paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales said the airport site “will be a very important site to test hypotheses” about the mass extinction of mammoths.

“What caused these animals extinction, everywhere there is a debate, whether its was climate change or the presence of humans,” Arroyo Cabrales said. “I think in the end the decision will be that there was a synergy effect between climate change and human presence.”

Ashley Leger, a paleontologist at the California-based Cogstone Resource Management company who was not involved in the dig, noted that such natural death groupings “are rare. A very specific set of conditions that allow for a collection of remains in an area but also be preserved as fossils must be met. There needs to be a means for them to be buried rapidly and experience low oxygen levels.”

The site near Mexico City now appears to have outstripped the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs South Dakota — which has about 61 sets of remains — as the world’s largest find of mammoth bones. Large concentrations have also been found in Siberia and at Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits.

For now, the mammoths seem to be everywhere at the site and the finds may slow down, but not stop, work on the new airport.

Mexican Army Capt. Jesus Cantoral, who oversees efforts to preserve remains at the army-led constructio site, said “a large number of excavation sites” are still pending detailed study, and that observers have to accompany backhoes and buldozers every time they break ground at a new spot.

The project is so huge, he noted, that the machines can just go work somewhere else while archaeologists study an area.

The airport project is scheduled for completion in 2022, at which point the dig will end.

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