While digging in his field on Monday, Michigan farmer James Bristle found what he thought was ordinary debris in his field. About 30 mammoths have been found in the state, but this find yielded one of the more complete skeletons.
Experts from the University of Michigan think humans may have killed the creature and hid the meat so that they could come back for it later.
Bristle said: “When my five-year-old grandson came over and saw the pelvis, he just stood there with his jaw wide open and stared”.
Based on preliminary analysis, researchers believe that the bones are from an adult male mammoth that likely lived 11,700 to 15,000 years ago; however, dating of the bones is yet to be done.
About a fifth of the animal’s bones have been retrieved during an excavation, including the skull and two tusks, numerous vertebrae and ribs, the pelvis and both shoulder blades. “It was covered in mud”.
Mammoths are distant relatives of the elephant that inhabited North America before they became extinct around 10,000 years ago. U-M paleontologist Daniel Fisher, who led the dig said that the site holds “excellent evidence of human activity” associated with the mammoth remains.
The team’s working hypothesis is that ancient humans placed the mammoth remains in a pond for storage.
Three boulders the size of basketballs were also found next to the remains, which researchers theorize may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond.
Prof Fisher says it could push back the date at which humans are known to have lived in prehistoric Michigan. “We didn’t know what it was, but we knew it was certainly a lot bigger than a cow bone”, James Bristle confessed in an interview.
Mr Bristle, anxious about the disruption to his farm, gave the team of palaeontologists one day to excavate the site and they worked around the clock to unearth the mammoths remains, helped in the process by local excavator Jamie Bollinger, who donated his time for free.