It Was Set to Be a Dump. Then, 'Largest Find of Its Kind'

Human-built pits in Mexico believed to be first known woolly mammoth traps
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2019 9:30 AM CST
It Was Set to Be a Dump. Then, 'Largest Find of Its Kind'
Mammoth bones are seen at an excavation site in Tultepec, Mexico.   (Meliton Tapia/Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History via AP)

Humans were hunting woolly mammoths with traps some 15,000 years ago, according to a first-of-its-kind discovery. Archaeologists working the site of a planned garbage dump in Tultepec, Mexico, say they've found two pits used to capture the animals, as well as 824 bones from at least 14 mammoths—some of which show evidence of hunting. The mammoth remains alone represent "the largest find of its kind ever made," Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History says, per They represent "a watershed, a turning point in what we until now imagined to be the interaction between hunter-gatherers with these huge herbivores," says the institute's director, per the BBC.

Archaeologists previously thought early humans only killed mammoths that were injured or trapped. But the human-built pits, some 80 feet across and 5 1/2 feet deep, suggest mammoth hunts were planned. Per the BBC, "early hunters may have herded the elephant-sized mammals into the traps using torches and branches." Researchers, who've been digging at the site for 10 months, say at least five mammoth herds occupied the region, along with horses and camels, remains of which were also found. It's unclear if a dump will still be set up on the site, per the AP. (Mammoths might get new protections despite being extinct, though that could change, too.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.