Machine excavates woolly mammoth in Michigan

Surprise discovery demands lightning dig of deceased beast to make way for a natural gas pipeline

Straps and zip ties helped secure cracks in the tusks while the remains of the woolly mammoth were lifted out of the ground.
Straps and zip ties helped secure cracks in the tusks while the remains of the woolly mammoth were lifted out of the ground.

The remains of a prehistoric woolly mammoth had been excavated in Michigan after a US farmer made the astonishing discovery while digging to make way for a natural gas pipeline in a soy field.

What was initially mistaken for a bent, muddy old fence post turned out to be the rib bone of an ancient woolly mammoth that died between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, said Professor Daniel Fisher from the department of archaeology at the University of Michigan.

However, with just a day to spare for the extraction, Fisher and his team went into overdrive, employing a digger to excavate the site, all the while documenting the remains the bones at speed.

“We don’t just want to pull the bones and tug everything out of the dirt,” Fisher told The Washington Post. “We want to get the context for how everything was placed at the site.”

The team and the excavator recovered about 20% of the extinct animal’s skeleton, including the skull and tusks, pelvis, both shoulder blades and a collection of vertebrae and ribs.

“We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,” Fisher added.

Three boulders the size of basketballs found next to the remains may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond to store the meat, he said.

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