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15,000-year-old Mexican 'mammoth traps' unearthed

The remains of 14 mammoths provide evidence about hunting by early humans, say researchers.


Archaeologists tour the area in Tultepec, Mexico, where they found the bones of mammoths. 

Edith Camacho, INAH

Anthropologists have uncovered the bones of at least 14 wooly mammoths in an excavated pit in the city of Tultepec in Mexico. They believe the remains point to the first-ever discovery of human-made mammoth traps, which would've been used to hunt the massive animals 15,000 years ago. 

Researchers from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History found that some of the bones bore signs showing the animals had been hunted. The pit appears to have been fashioned in the bottom of a then-receded lake where unnatural 90-degree cuts are still evident, a sharp drop toward which hunters are thought to have driven the beasts.

"[The discovery] represents a turning point, a touchstone on what until now we imagined was the interaction of hunter-gatherer bands with these enormous herbivores," INAH National Archeology Coordinator Pedro Francisco Sánchez said in a release Wednesday

Researchers have worked at the site, near where President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government is building a new airport for Mexico City, for almost 10 months, recovering 824 bones in the roughy 26-feet-deep pit. 

Read more: Ancient mammoth DNA could help save threatened elephants


Bone remains of the Tultepec mammoths. 

Luis Córdoba Barradas, INAH.