MEXICO CITY (NewsNation Now) — More than 100 mammoth skeletons have been identified, spread across nearly 200 excavation sites, along with a mix of other Ice Age mammals, in the area destined to become the Mexican capital’s new commercial airport.
Archaeologists say mammoth herds lived there 24,000 years ago when the earth was sprawling with grasslands and lakes.
“This place was like a paradise,” lead archaeologist Ruben Manzanilla told Reuters, noting that as the last glaciers melted a wide range of mammals — including ancient species of camels, horses and buffalo — lived along what would have been an extremely muddy shoreline.
“Then over many years the same story repeated itself: The animals ventured too far, got trapped and couldn’t get their legs out of the muck,” said Manzanilla.
He speculates that most of the mammoths died this way, though he adds that there is some evidence that around 10,000 years ago early humans may have also hunted the 20-tonne beasts with flint arrows and spears, or dug rudimentary shallow water pits to snare them.
Once the excavation of all the skeletons are complete the site could be the largest deposit of mammoth skeletons, beating the number of skeletons found in Siberia.
A museum-style mammoth exhibit is being planned for the airport’s main terminal.
Reuters contributed to this report.