By Cailey Rizzo
November 08, 2019
Jose Mendez/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Ancient traps containing the remains of 14 woolly mammoths were discovered in Mexico, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) revealed at a press conference this week.

The traps are at least 15,000 years old and were found in the city of Tultepec, about 25 miles north of Mexico City.

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The discovery site, called “Tultepec II” has been under excavation for 10 months. At the dig, they have discovered about 824 bones, belonging to 14 different mammoths, including eight skulls, five jaws and 179 ribs. Because of its mass quantity of bones, Tultepec II can now be considered a “Mammoth Megasite” by archaeologists.

"It represents a watershed, a touchstone for how we previously imagined groups of hunter-gatherers interacted with these enormous herbivores," Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, national archeology coordinator at the INAH, said at the press conference.

Archaeologists at the prehistoric site believe they now have a better understanding of how hunter-gatherers would have tracked and killed mammoths in the Mexico basin. Groups of about 20 to 30 hunters would scare a mammoth away from the rest of its pack and lure it into the trap with torches. Once the animal was trapped, it would be killed and eaten, with most parts of its body used for something.

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There was one mammoth skeleton in the pack that archaeologists believe must have been treated with particular deference. He had several wound marks, which led researchers to believe that this mammoth was hunted repeatedly over time. When hunters finally caught him, they considered him “brave, fierce" and they "showed him respect” by laying out his bones in a ceremonial arrangement.

Tultepec already features a Mammoth Museum, where an almost-complete woolly mammoth skeleton, which was discovered in 2016, is on display.

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