Bachelor party makes accidental discovery of three-million-year-old elephant skull

The skull (above) belong to a stegomastadon - a massive ancestor of the modern elephant that predated even the woolly mammoth

When Antonia Gradillas and his friends set off for a hike in New Mexico to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding they were probably expecting a certain amount of craziness – but certainly not the discovery of a three-million-year-old elephant skull.

The group chanced across the archaeological wonder in Elephant Butte Lake State Park 150 miles from the city of Albuquerque after seeing a tusk sticking out from the ground.

“As we were walking we saw a bone sticking out about one or two inches from the ground,” Gradillas, 33, told ABC news. He and his friends started digging and soon uncovered another tusk, then a row of teeth and a massive cranium

Gradillas suspected that the skull might belong to a woolly mammoth and called a friend who worked in a museum for more advice.

The pair then got in touch with Gary Morgan, a paleontologist with the nearby New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, who rushed to the scene the next day after seeing pictures of the find.

The friends and their find. Image Antonia Gradillas/KOB 4

Morgan announced that the skull belonged to a stegomastadon; a prehistoric ancestor of the modern elephant that predated the woolly mammoth and would have lived and roamed in the area some three million years ago.

Stegomastadon look very similar to today’s elephants but have a more squat and weighty build. The creature stood about nine feet tall and weighed more than six tons, with a pair of tusks that grew as long as 3.5-metres.

"This is far and away the best one we've ever found," said Morgan, noting how the river sediment must have quickly preserved and fossilized the creature. "This may be one of the most complete [stegomastodon skulls] ever found – anywhere."

The skull is awaiting transport back to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, where Morgan said it would be invaluable to researchers thanks to its pristine condition.

“This is the coolest thing ever,” said Gradillas. “Some people with PhDs in this field might not even have this kind of opportunity. We were so lucky.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £40,000

£18000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Insurance Bro...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Support Technician

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Front End Developer

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides actionabl...

Guru Careers: Customer Support Advisor

Negotiable depending on experience, plus benefits: Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food