A Michigan farmer this week stumbled upon the bones of a woolly mammoth that was most likely butchered and frozen by early Michigan folk, who were saving some mammoth for later.
James Bristle and his neighbor Trent Satterthwaite were installing a drainage pipe in a soy field on Bristle's property when they happened upon the remains. Bristle told MLive he wasn't sure what they'd found at first. "We knew it was something that was out of the norm," he said, adding"we thought it was a bent fence post. It was covered in mud."
Bristle called the University of Michigan's Museum of Paleontology, which sent over a team to examine the find on Thursday. Paleontologist Daniel Fisher was able to confirm that the bones belonged to a mammoth.
The University of Michigan explained in a statement that the remains most likely belong to an adult male who died between 11,700 and 15,000 years ago. And, they say, it seems the mammoth was destined to be lunch:
The team's working hypothesis is that ancient humans placed the mammoth remains in a pond for storage. Caching mammoth meat in ponds for later use is a strategy that Fisher said he has encountered at other sites in the region. Evidence supporting that idea includes three basketball-sized boulders recovered next to the mammoth remains. The boulders may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond. The researchers also recovered a small stone flake that may have been used as a cutting tool next to one of the tusks. And the neck vertebrae were not scattered randomly, as is normally the case following a natural death.
Fisher added, "We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it."
If the scientists confirm this is the case, it could mean that humans were in Michigan earlier than we thought.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.