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article image10,000-year-old Mammoth skeleton unearthed in Mexico City

By Jeff Campagna     Apr 17, 2013 in Science
Mexico - An excavation process initiated last March by Mexico's National Institute for Anthropology and History is beginning to show some astonishing results.
Giant mammoths roamed the planet, usually in cold climates, until around 4,500 years ago before they were killed off by hunting and climate change. Recently, the Mammuthus species has returned to the forefront of scientific debate after the discussion on the deextinction of recently wiped-out species was made public.
While molecular biologists, ornithologists, conservationists and bioethicists deliberate over the feasibility and repercussions of such an operation, palaeontologists and archaeologists have been working together to unearth what is thought to be one of the largest, most intact set of mammoth bones to ever be discovered in the Mexico basin.
In March of 2012, residents of Santa Ana Tiacotenco just south of Mexico City came across the animal's molars in a dusty patch of ground covered in nopales cacti. After notifying local experts, who suspected that the mammoth's full body may be somewhere nearby, a full excavation was launched by the National Institute for Anthropology and History, the Anthropological Investigations Institute and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Palaeontologists have been using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), a nondestructive radar method that detects signals from below the surface of the ground and reflects the pulses back up to a receiver. This method is commonly used by archaeologists who are looking for ancient buried structures and irregular voids.
"For the first time in Latin America, magnetic, electric and ground-penetrating radar methods were applied in paleontology... (methods that are) commonly used in archaeological excavations to detect architectural (findings)," institute researchers told CNN Mexico. So far palaeontologists have managed to excavate 70 percent of the skeleton.
The remains were found to be covered in volcanic ash, leading experts to believe that the animal suffocated from volcanic fumes after an eruption from the nearby San Miguel volcano. Also of interest to experts is the fact that the mammoth had died over two thousand meters above sea — an altitude not usually frequented by the mammoth species. Researchers are wondering if the animal had strayed beyond its natural habitat in search of a shrinking food supply.
"Up to now, the paleontologists have been able to expose the tusks, parts of the skull and jawbone, as well as some ribs and vertebrae," CNN reports on their Light Years blog. Researches are estimating that the ten-ton, three-meter-tall mammoth is a 30-year-old male from Mammuthus columbi species and that it died approximately 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
More about Paleontology, Mammoth, Mexico city