Woolly mammoths were roaming the Shropshire countryside thousands of years after they were thought to be extinct, research suggests.
Scientists have re-examined skeletons of one adult male and at least four juvenile mammoths unearthed from Condover, Shropshire, in 1986.
New techniques developed in the last 20 years allowed them to make a more accurate estimate of the age of the fossils.
The findings indicate that woolly mammoths lived in Britain as recently as 14,000 years ago - 7,000 years after they were believed to have died out.
Professor Adrian Lister, from the Natural History Museum in London, who carried out the research, said: "Mammoths are conventionally believed to have become extinct in north-western Europe about 21,000 years ago during the main ice advance, known as the Last Glacial Maximum.
"Our new radiocarbon dating of the Condover mammoths changes that, by showing that mammoths returned to Britain and survived until around 14,000 years ago."
The Shropshire fossils are the last record of mammoths living in north-west Europe.
They suggests that climate change wiped out the woolly mammoth in Europe rather than human hunters.
"The new dates of the mammoths' last appearance correlate very closely in time to climate changes when the open grassy habitat of the Ice Age was taken over by advancing forests, which provides a likely explanation for their disappearance," said Prof Lister.
"There were humans around during the time of the Condover mammoths, but no evidence of significant mammoth hunting."
The research is published today in the Geological Journal.Reuse content