Several mammoth tusks and stone tools have recently been searched by archaeologists in Mexico, uncovering some of the earliest known evidence of violent interactions between Ice Age humans and megafauna in the Basin of Mexico.
Thanks to a new analysis by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), it has been revealed that this collection of objects was most likely part of a seasonal hunter-gatherer camp on the shores of Lake Texcoco around 9,000 years ago.
Lake Texcoco was a natural lake in the Basin of Mexico that could be found near the ancient capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan. The body of water has since disappeared, and the lake basin is now almost entirely occupied by Mexico City.
The relics discovered here were first recovered in the early 1950s when INAH researchers came across two sets of Colombian mammoth it remains only 250 meters (820 ft) apart. Along with a pair of mammoths, they also found at least three stone tools that showed signs of use.
Over the past few decades, the objects have been studied in many studies, but in 2022, scientists took the deepest look using a variety of new techniques.
Woolly mammoths clung to the northernmost latitudes of the Earth, but the Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) trampled as far south as modern Mexico. Previous genetic studies have shown that the Columbian mammoth was a hybrid species between woolly mammoths and another lineage descended from steppe mammoths. The species were armed with distinctive long, curly tusks and were slightly larger than their woolly cousins.
Artist’s impression of the Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi). Image Credit: Benji Paysnoe/NPS/Public Domain
As this new analysis shows, it’s also clear that these huge beasts were preying on humans in this part of the world as far back as 9,000 years ago.
“The study indicates that this is a seasonal hunter-gatherer camp that would come in handy [this] the first material evidence of such a site on the shores of Lake Texcoco around 9,000 years ago,” Patricia Pérez Martínez, project coordinator from the National School of Anthropology and History, said in a statement.
The researchers explain that the site is particularly unusual because such encampments are usually found in caves and rock shelters in the mountainous regions of northern Mexico, rather than in lower open-air sites.
It seems that mammoth steaks were the only thing on the menu of these Ice Age people. The examination also found evidence of fish bones that showed signs of charring. It seems that Ice Age mammoth hunters also enjoyed fishing in the lake and cooking them over an open fire.
With this evidence of both hunting mammoths and fishing in the lakes, it suggests that this prehistoric clearly knew how to take advantage of its environment.
“Today we have new techniques and technologies that will allow us to reassess a site, not only a find at a cultural level with human interaction, but also to reconstruct the landscape to determine how it has changed and to understand whether the first settlers used the megafauna as well as they lived off the resources of the lake,” added Martínez.