An airport construction site located north of Mexico City has become “mammoth central” with hundreds of bones already recovered. So far, experts have unearthed around 200 mammoth bones with many more waiting to be excavated at the location of the new Santa Lucia airport. In fact, there are such a large number of bones at the site that experts have to dig through each load of soil picked up by bulldozers. Additionally, the site is now regarded as the largest discovery of mammoth bones in the entire world.
The site was once the location of an ancient lake bed that mammoths were attracted to but where they also met their end when they became trapped in the marshy soil. Interestingly, archaeologists also found dozens of tools created from the bones that would have been made by ancient humans after the mammoths died between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. Experts are hoping that the bones will reveal more information regarding their extinction.
The airport construction site is located just 12 miles from artificial pits that ancient humans used to trap and kill mammoths. With the pits nearby, it’s possible that even if the mammoths died from getting stuck in the lake bed, early humans could have still used their bones to make tools – similar to the remains found at the trap site in Tultepec.
More studies need to be conducted as explained by archaeologist Rubén Manzanilla López from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, “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.”
Paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales weighed in by stating, “What caused these animals extinction, everywhere there is a debate, whether it was climate change or the presence of humans,” adding, “I think in the end the decision will be that there was a synergy effect between climate change and human presence.”
The construction of the new Santa Lucia airport is scheduled to be completed by 2022, so archaeologists still have some time left to potentially unearth a lot more mammoth bones. A picture of some of the bones already discovered at the site can be seen here.