July 9, 2020

Mexico found the remains of 14 mammoths in hunter traps | Science

Tultepec has officially become a land of mammoths. The municipality, about 40 kilometers north of Mexico City, has seen the discovery of 824 bones belonging to 14 mammoths. The discovery came in February when workers in the municipality tried to build a dump and, when digging about five meters, they found bone remains. "They are approximately 15,000 years ago," Luis Córdoba, a researcher at the Archaeological Rescue Department of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH), in charge of the excavation. The more than ten months of work by archaeologists have revealed something unprecedented: for the first time mammoth bones have been found in traps dug by hunters. A novelty that changes the way in which the relationship between humans and these pachyderms has been thought of.

"On the first visit we already found several remains of mammoths," says Córdoba in a video published by the Mexican Government. Along with some huge fangs still half buried, as one who shows a precious collection, the Mexican archaeologist exhibits the eight skulls, the five jaws, the 179 ribs, among hundreds of other bones. He has participated in the rescue of at least 22 skeletons of these huge pachyderms in Mexico. One of them was in December 2015, also in Tultepec, when the construction of a drainage brought to light a huge bone, today tourist attraction exhibited in the Mammoth Museum of that municipality.

After that first finding, the mission to recover these new skeletons was named Tultepec II. The large number of bones on that site has now opened the door to Mexico to enter the list of Megasites of Mammoth, where countries such as Russia or the United States are located, in which hundreds of bone remains have been found.

General view of the remains of mammoth specimens found in artificial traps.

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General view of the remains of mammoth specimens found in artificial traps. EFE

The discovery revealed on Wednesday "represents a watershed" in the study of Prehistory, said Pedro Sánchez Nava, coordinator of Archeology at INAH, in a statement. The excavations speak for the first time of the way in which the inhabitants of 15,000 years ago related to these animals, how they hunted them in order to feed themselves. ”This finding changes that random and eventual scene that the textbooks handled on the Mammoth hunting: that of an animal that was attacked only when it fell in a swamp ”, celebrates Sánchez Nava.

The remains of these 14 mammoths have been found in graves that, according to the team of archaeologists, were used by the "hunter gatherers" as traps. "Until now it was thought that they were scared to fall into a swamp or waiting for them to die, but a direct attack was never suggested," says Cordoba, "although here is the evidence that there were direct attacks."

Effect of climate change

Archaeologists who still work there claim that the remains date back to the period known as Glacial Maximum, a time when aridity led the region's lakes to dry. “These climatic changes caused much of the world's water to be concentrated in the poles and in the high mountains, and many areas became drier, that was the case in the basin of Mexico,” explains Córdoba.

“It is noted that the lake of Xaltocan (which was in Tultepec at that time) dropped and its bottom was exposed in the form of a very large plain. That's where they took the hunter gatherers to dig the traps, at the bottom of what had been the lake. ” The composition of the land around the remains was what gave the key to the researchers to determine which part of the excavation was natural formation and which had been modified by man.

The researchers hypothesis suggests that the traps found by the hunter gatherers are not isolated attempts, but "a set (of traps) in line very well posed by the hunters." "All that effort had to be used for many years, that's why the amount of mammoth remains," says Cordoba. INAH has even detailed that they have received information from at least three other sites around Tultepec where there may be more remains. All 10 kilometers from the Santa Lucia air base, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has begun to build the capital of the international airport of the Mexican capital.

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