Huge trove of mammoth skeletons found in Mexico

An expert works with mammoth bones discovered in Tultepec Mexico in this handout

An expert works with mammoth bones discovered in Tultepec Mexico in this handout

The land where the ancient pits and trapped mammoths were found is located in the neighborhood of Tultepec, a few miles north of Mexico City.

Researchers from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History found that some of the bones bore signs showing the animals had been hunted.

Humans were hunting woolly mammoths with traps some 15,000 years ago, according to a first-of-its-kind discovery. The human-made pits each measured about 1.7 metres (6 feet) deep and 25 metres wide, with 90-degree walls to prevent mammoths from climbing out.

The discovery "represents a watershed, a turning point in what we until now imagined to be the interaction between hunter-gatherers with these huge herbivores", Diego Prieto Hernández, director of the institute, said in a statement.

Experts think that groups of between 20 and 30 hunters used torches and branches to separate some mammoths from their herd and direct them into the traps.

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The skeletal remains were found in Tultepec, near the site where President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government is building a new airport for Mexico City.

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

Mammoths were hairy giants that roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for thousands of years before disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene period 10,000 years ago.

Researchers said at least five mammoth herds lived in the area of the find. The discovery suggests that humans were more eager to capture, kill and eat mammoths than researchers previously thought.

It was unclear if plans for the dump would proceed.

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