Scientists have found the remains of about 14 mammoths in Mexico, foreign media reported. They distributed more than 800 mammoth bones in two craters – apparently a trap used to hold mammoths. The remains were found in Tultepec, north of Mexico City.
It is thought that the discovery may provide new clues as to how humans hunt mammoths. Archaeologists speculate that a team of 20 to 30 human hunters will use torches and branches to draw single mammoths out of the group and guide them into traps.
The pit is 1.7 metres deep and 25 metres in diameter. Over the past 10 months, a team of excavations from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has discovered 824 bones believed to correspond to at least 14 mammoths of varying sizes.
It is thought that there may be more round pits lined up, which will make the hunting more likely to succeed. The findings included eight skulls, five jaws, 100 vertebrae and 179 ribs. However, the lack of bones suggests that ancient humans may have performed certain rituals, perhaps in memory of the mammoth itself. Of the six scapulas found, all came from the right side of the mammoth.
The apparent intentional arrangement of some bones also indicates that certain rituals may have taken place. There is also evidence that mammoth ribs are used to chop mammoth meat and that its bones are used as a polishing tool, perhaps to remove fat from the skin. The fact that many skulls were found upside down suggests that the mammoth’s tongue and other organs were eaten.
Studies of the European mammoth site have proposed a human method of controlling and killing mammoths because of the concentration of human remains and the lack of evidence of trace of the teeth of carnivores. It is believed that in Europe, this kind of hunting is possible due to the domestication of dogs. Although ancient humans in prehistoric Central America are known to hunt mammoths with domesticated dogs, the INAH team has not suggested that they were used to hunt mammoths.
The trap dates back to the end of the Pleistocene era, when the Earth’s climate was unstable, when icing caused by cooling poles lowered global sea levels and exposed vast plains in the Turtpec region. The formation of the trap dates back to the eruption of The PopocatePetl (14700 years ago), which caused humans and animals to travel to the northern part of the Mexican basin. Archaeologists did find volcanic ash between the bones of the mammoths that had been excavated.
However, archaeologists found other mammoth remains in other watercover vegetation in the area, suggesting that the mammoths were still moving as the water returned to the later Lake Xaltocan. INAH now believes that the mammoth site in the Mexican basin is comparable in size to the size of Europe’s huge mammoth site.