After almost ten months of archaeological excavations, INAH archaeologists have recovered 824 mammoth bones. Image Credit: Edith Camacho, INAH.

How 15,000 Years Ago, Ancient Humans Hunted Mammoths With Complex Traps in Mexico

A series of complex, 15,000-year-old mammoths traps have been found near present-day Mexico City.


A stunning archeological discovery has just been made in Mexico. A group of archeologists has identified what are believed to be two cavities built by early humans with numerous mammoth remains inside them.

The archaeologists say that the massive cavities are a kind of ancient mammoth trap used by the first settles in the region to hunt mammoths.


As revealed in a statement by the National Institute of Anthropology and History  (INAH), the recent discovery represents an unprecedented form of hunting and trapping mammoths around 15,000 years ago in what is now Tutulpec, north of Mexico City.

The mammoth traps are gigantic in size with walls of almost 90 degrees, 1.70 meters deep, and 25 meters in diameter.

More than 800 bones corresponding to at least 14 mammoths have been recovered distributed in pits at a depth of around 3.50 meters.

The remains of eight mammoths come from the first two excavation units located in the southwest corner o the site; the remains of six others were recovered north of it in the third excavation unit. All of the excavated units are considered to be ancient mammoth traps.


In addition, three nearby sites have been identified as pits containing mammoths remains. Archeologists say that this represents a “line of traps,”; a strategy that allowed ancient hunters to reduce the margin of error in capturing the mammoths.

In other words, these massive pits, early traps, were planned by ancient humans. It is believed that ancient humans may have herded the mammoths into the traps using torches, branches, and other similar tools.

Archeologists Luis Cordova Barradas who led the archeological excavation, revealed that there had been very little evidence that ancient hunters directly attached mammoths.

“There was little evidence before that hunters attacked mammoths. It was thought they frightened them into getting stuck in swamps and then waited for them to die,” the archeologists told reporters.

“This is evidence of direct attacks on mammoths. In Tultepec, we can see there was the intention to hunt and make use of the mammoths.”

Archeologists say that the prehistoric traps of Tultepec were excavated in the clay of the bottom of Lake Xaltocan, approximately 15,000 years ago, when their levels dropped and left large plains exposed.

This phenomenon coincided with the great eruption of the Popocatépetl volcano around 14,700 years ago, which motivated a great mobilization of animals and humans towards the north of the Basin of Mexico, where the fall of volcanic ash was lower.


As revealed by Diego Prieto Hernandes, the discovery “represents a watershed, a turning point in what we until now imagined to be the interaction between hunter-gatherers with these huge herbivores.”

In addition to the surprising number of mammoths remains and complex, ancient traps, the archaeologists have revealed a mystery surrounding the discovery: the haul only includes shoulders blades from the right side, and the left shoulder blades appear to be missing. Archeologists are unable to understand why.

Wooly Mammoths were the last species of Mammoths to become extinct around 4,000 years ago. The archaeologists have revealed that in addition to the hundreds of mammoths remains; the teams excavated the jawbone and spine of a camel and the tooth of an ancient horse species., both of which eventually became extinct in the Americas.

Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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