Sunday, June 26, 2011

First ancient mammoth carving discovered in North America

The first ever images of mammoths have been found in North America. Previously hundreds of images of the now extinct animals have been found in Europe, but none here.

A fragment of bone, discovered in Vero Beach, Florida bears a 3-inch-long, 1.75-inch tall engraving. It bears a striking resemblance to a mammoth. It is a trunked creature, whose shortened, high-domed skull and longer forelimbs evoke the body of a mammoth.

If genuine, this rare and spectacular find provides evidence that ancient people living in the Americas during the end of the Pleistocene Epoch created artistic images of the animals they hunted, Purdy and her colleagues write online in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Mammoths and their mastodon relatives disappeared approximately 13,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch, so this image must have been carved by that time, according to the researchers.

The bone itself appears to have belonged to a large mammal, most likely a mastodon or mammoth, or less likely, a giant sloth, they write. The image on the bone is not readily apparent, and the fossil hunter who discovered it, James Kennedy, did not notice it for two or three years after collecting the bone. When a cleaning revealed the engraving, Kennedy contacted researchers. The researchers set out to verify that the carving was indeed created by ancient people using a variety of analytical and imaging techniques.