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
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee