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Scientists Find Mammoth Bones Near Mexico City


Archaeologists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) unearth the bones of more than 10,000-year-old mammoths at the construction site of Mexico's new international airport, in Zumpango, near Mexico City May 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Henry Romero)
Scientists Find Mammoth Bones Near Mexico City
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Huge bones have been discovered in a place 50 kilometers north of Mexico City where a new airport is being built.

Scientists, who study the past by examining very old objects, are digging up more and more of these bones. These archeologists have found that the bones belong to the mammoth, the most famous mammal of a cold period in Earth’s history known as an ice age.

Archeologists have found the bones of 70 mammoths so far. The latest discovery includes two large skulls, as well as rib and leg bones.

Ruben Manzanilla is the lead archeologist at the site. Manzanilla said that the place once was part of a shoreline with a lot of mud. Lakes likely formed there at the end of the most recent ice age.

“When an animal this size fell here, it got stuck and couldn’t escape,” he said.

The mammoth bones belonged to a Columbian mammoth, which unlike its relative the woolly mammoth, had little hair. But, it was a powerful creature. Manzanilla believes it weighted about 20,000 kilograms and stood more than 4 meters tall.

Many mammoths likely got stuck in the mud, Manzanilla said. But, he said that evidence at nearby places suggests early human hunters used spears to kill the mammoths. They also may have used traps in the water.

Over 10,000 years ago, central Mexico had many groups, or herds, of mammoths. The bones they left behind led some people to create stories about giants.

Lopez Lujan wrote about some of the stories in the publication Mexican Archeology recently.

In 1519, two local kings showed the Spaniard Hernan Cortes what was probably a mammoth leg bone. They told Cortes that the bone came from terrible, tall men. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, a soldier and writer at the time of Cortes, wrote about the incident.

“We were sure there had been giants in this land,” wrote Diaz Del Castillo.

I’m John Russell.

David Alire Garcia reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

skull – n. the structure of bones that form the head and face of a person or animal

rib -- n. any one of the curved bones of the chest that connect to the spine

giant n. a legendary creature usually thought of as being an extremely large and powerful person

site –n. a place where something is happening, like a building project or archeological study

shoreline – n. the land along the edge of an area of water (such as an ocean, lake, etc.) : a coast or shore

trap – n. a device that is used for catching animals

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