Near complete woolly mammoth skeleton found near Paris

Woolly mammoths seem to loom out of a stone age pre-history and it is sometimes difficult to realise that they only went finally extinct some 10,000 years ago. But this particular skeleton comes from the time when Neanderthals were a common sight.

Mammuthus primigenius: Wikipedia

 Mammuthus  primigenius

A nearly complete mammoth skeleton has just been uncovered at Changis-sur-Marne in the Seine-et-Marne department. This type of discovery, in its original context, is exceptional in France since only three specimens have been found in 150 years: the first such discovery, known as “the mammoth of Choulans”, was discovered in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon in 1859.

This mammoth is probably a Mammuthus primigenius, a woolly mammoth with long tusks that were used to expose edible vegetation under the snow. These animals could reach 2.8 to 3.4 metres high at their withers and were covered with fur and a thick layer of fat. The mammoth of Changis-sur-Marne existed between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago, at the same time as Neanderthals. Mammoths were well adapted to cold climates and thus disappeared from western Europe 10,000 years ago when the climate became warmer. The most recent specimen died off the coast of the Bering Strait, 3700 years ago. …. 

The discovery at Changis-sur-Marne is exceptional since humans and mammoths have been found together at only two Middle Palaeolithic sites in western Europe: Lehringen and Gröbern in Germany. There is also the site of Ranville, in the Calvados region, where an ancient elephant (Elephas antiquus) was scavenged approximately 220,000 years ago. Finally, the excavation at Tourville-la-Rivière, in the Seine-Maritime department, recently uncovered aurochs, horses, bears, lions and panthers that were transported by the Seine, 200,000 years ago. Neanderthals, who would have been aware of all the resources in their environs scavenged meat, tendons, hide, etc. from this natural jackpot.

In the near future, archaeologists and palaeontologists should be able to determine whether the mammoth of Changis was killed by Neanderthals, or whether they scavenged the animal after its natural death. This discovery will contribute to the debate among scientists concerning the predatory skills of Neanderthals. The ultimate challenge is to determine the precise date of the event, using radiometric and chrono-stratigraphic methods.

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