A mammoth find in France provides evidence of a savage demise
Neanderthals may have dealt killer blow
Friday 09 November 2012
The first complete mammoth skeleton to be found in France for more than a century has been uncovered in a gravel pit on the banks of the Marne 30 miles north-east of Paris.
The find, first made in July but kept secret until this week, has yielded a second, even more exciting, discovery. Two tiny fragments of flint blade have been found embedded in the mammoth's skull close to one of its tusks.
Archeologists speculated, when they first found "Helmut le Mammouth" that he had come to a sticky end between 130,000 and 190,000 years ago. They concluded that the animal, maybe 9ft high and weighing up to five tonnes, had foundered on soft mud or quicksand.
Now another possibility arises. The mammoth could have been attacked by one of the bands of Neanderthal men and women who wandered over the European tundra in the cold, dry period between two ice ages more than a thousand centuries ago. The predecessors and distant cousins of Homo sapiens must, at the very least, have feasted on the mammoth's carcass, possibly some time after its death.
"What we have found here is a moment in pre-history in an absolutely extraordinary state of preservation," said Pascal Depaepe, technical director of the French national institute for preventative archeology, INRAP. "It is my belief that the mammoth was butchered by Neanderthals on this spot. Whether the animal was hunted down by them, or found dead some time later, we may never be able to tell. The concept of rotten meat is, after all, a relatively modern idea."
No complete, or almost complete, mammoth skeleton has been found in France since the late 19th century. Only two other Paleolithic sites in western Europe have produced signs of human activity directly linked to mammoth remains. Both are in Germany.
In the next few days, the remains of "Helmut" will be removed from the gravel quarry at Changis-sur-Marne, just north of Meaux, in the Île-de-France. Archeologists and zoologists are nor sure yet whether the creature was a "small male or a large female".
"The bones have to be removed from the site rapidly because they could be damaged by exposure to the elements," said Stéphane Péan, a paleo-zoologist from the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Eventually, it is hoped that it will be possible to reassemble Helmut and put him, or her, on display at the museum in Paris.
The woolly mammoth was about the size of its distant relative, the Asian elephant. From roughly 190,000 years ago until the demise of the last herds in Siberia 10,000 years ago, they roamed North America, Siberia and Europe.
Malaysia Airlines plane crash exposes alarming flaw in airline security: over one billion flights made last year without stolen-passport check
Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Oil slicks in South China Sea ‘not from missing jet’, officials say
Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete throws up as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's autopsy
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 3 Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote in North Korean elections
- 4 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
- 5 Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Charter Selection: Global leader in its respective ...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Male and Female PE te...
£130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Do you have a qualificatio...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: The school is much la...