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Mammoth bones found in man-made pit reveal pre-historic hunting tactics

08 November 2019

Layers of ash from the eruption of Popocatepetl, 14,700 years ago, were found above and between layers of mammoth bones, which suggests the pits were in use for at least 500 years.

The first discovery of human-made woolly mammoth traps has shattered myths about how prehistoric humans hunted.

An expert works on mammoth bones found in what is believed to be the first mammoth trap set by humans, in Tultepec, Mexico, in a photo released by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology (INAH). The holes housed hundreds of 15,000-year-old mammoth bones, leading scientists to deduce that they were purposefully ensnared in the quarry.

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Archaeologists thought early humans only killed mammoths if the animals were trapped or hurt.

Researchers have worked at the site, near where President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government is building a new airport for Mexico City, for nearly 10 months, recovering 824 bones in the roughy 26-feet-deep pit.

Archaeologists unearthed the 5-foot-deep, 82-foot-wide pits in Tultepec, outside of Mexico City - in an area that was going to be used as a dump, according to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History.

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Other bones recovered in the pit include the vertebrae and jaw of a camel, as well as molars from a horse.

The discovery "represents a watershed, a touchstone on what we imagined until now was the interaction of hunter-gatherer bands with these enormous herbivores", said Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, national coordinator of archaeology at INAH, in a statement.

The institute said hunters may have chased mammoths into the traps.

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It was unclear if plans for the dump would proceed.

Mammoth bones found in man-made pit reveal pre-historic hunting tactics