Site Now Known as “Mammoth Central” Has Been Found at Mexico City’s Airport Construction Site

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Green, white and red Mexican flag waving.

Mexico City continues to work on constructing their new airport, but they have encountered an unexpected delay. However, this is a good thing and not a bad thing. You see, in the process of constructing this airport, they inadvertently discovered a mammoth fossil bed. At the current count, archaeologists have uncovered at least 200 unique mammoth fossil specimens, and they aren’t done yet. 

Archaeologists are really hopeful that the site of this future Mexico City airport is going to become “Mammoth Central”, meaning that the site once was host to an ancient lakebed. Officials are also hopeful that this site will provide some clues to uncover the mystery of why the mammoth went extinct in the first place. 

“At our present count, we have 200 mammoths, but we also have 25 camels and five horses,” archaeologist Ruben Manzanilla Lopez from the National Institute of Anthropology and History said regarding the find. This site for the future Mexico City airport is just about 12 miles away from an area that was known as an artificial pit that ancient hunters used to trap these mammoths and other creatures. 

Even though Manzanilla Lopez said that there is some evidence that the mammoths might have died a natural death, that is still important because the remains might have still been scavenged by ancient humans, much like what they did at another ancient site called San Antonio Xahuento near Tultepec. Along these same lines, Lopez’s crew members continue to do tests to determine if there are any possible butchering marks on the remains. However, along the way, they have also discovered several mammoth-bone tools such as shafts or cutting tools. 

“It is in this instance that we have found some evidence that these same kinds of tools have already been discovered elsewhere. However, until we do the laboratory studies we can’t be completely certain that we are looking at the same thing,” Manzanilla Lopez said. Paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales was also excited about some of the finds at the site, and he noted that this area is going to be “a very important area to test all of our hypotheses” regarding the mass extinction of these mammoths. 

“Trying to determine what caused the extinction of these animals, well that’s debatable,” Arroyo Cabrales said. “There is a debate everywhere. Some think that it was climate change, while still others think it had something to do with humans. Of course, in the end it might be a combination of both, being a synergy effect between the human presence and climate change.” 

These natural death groupings are very rare, according to Ashley Leger, a paleontologist at Cogstone Resource Management in California. “There has to be a very specific set of conditions for remains such as these to be preserved as fossils in this way. They must not only be buried rapidly, but they must experience low oxygen levels as well.” 

This Mexico City site is now the largest deposit for mammoth fossils in the world, eclipsing the previous winner, which was the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs South Dakota – it only has 61 sets of mammoth bones present. Siberia and the La Brea tar pits in L.A. also have some deposits as well. 

At the moment, the mammoth fossils seem to be everywhere at the site, and Mexican Army Captain Jesus Cantoral has the unique responsibility of preserving the remains at this army-led site. He noted that there are several other “construction sites” that are pending further study, and that backhoes and bulldozers need observers every time they break ground. Indeed, it’s such a huge project that sometimes they have to ward the large machines off while they study the fossils! 

This dig is going to end in 2022 because that is when the airport project is scheduled to be completed.

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