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Mammoth tusk found at the kill site in Austria.

28,000-Year-Old Mammoth Kill Site Discovered in Austria

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Archaeologists in Austria have announced the discovery of what they have described as a “Stone Age kill site.” The hoard of ancient mammoth remains indicate a zone into which ancient people must have herded the massive mammals so they could be killed and butchered.

The chance discovery was made by roadworks while laying a new bypass near Drasenhofen, a town in the Austrian state of Lower Austria. Researchers were called to the scene to examine “massive mammoth tusks and bones as well as the remains of other large animals,” according to a report in

Archaeologists unearthed “Stone Age tools” at the 16-square-metre ‘kill site’ and Martin Krenn of the Austrian Federal Monuments Office told reporters: ‘The Palaeolithic kill site is the first to be excavated in Austria and was analyzed using state-of-the-art methods.” He added ‘It gives us a sensational overview of the Palaeolithic people’s way of life.’

Archaeologist working at the site of the mammoth remains. (Image: Asfinag)

Archaeologist working at the site of the mammoth remains. (Image: Asfinag)

A mammoth divide

In school we were shown cartoons of Stone Age people chasing mammoths with spears and bows and arrows, but in reality ancient hunters used the environment to entrap and kill large animals. Herds were strategically driven into death zones and trapped while attacked from above and driven of cliffs.

The site in Austria where the latest mammoth bones were discovered is estimated to be between 18,000 and 28,000 years old.

Mammoth bones are discovered regularly by archaeologists in Europe and they help complete the picture of life in prehistoric times. However, in North America, mammoth bones are at the very spear head of the entire American origins debate. In 1964, a marshy field was being draining on the Schaefer Farm, an hour north of Chicago and according to report in “an earthmover jolted to a halt when it struck a buried mammoth femur, throwing its operator from his seat.”

One of the recently found mammoth bones. (Image: Asfinag)

One of the recently found mammoth bones. (Image: Asfinag)

Mammoth bones change history

The uncovered mammoth remains were displayed at the Kenosha Public Museum and more than 20 years passed before an amateur archaeologist spotted tiny slice marks on another set of mammoth bones on display at the museum. Such marks indicate bones had been butchered and acting on this observation the museum’s director, archaeologist Dan Joyce reopened the Schaefer site for further examination. In 1992, “under two-and-a-half feet of ancient soils” Joyce found roughly 80 percent of a completely butchered mammoth which had been covered with the waters of a lake shortly after it was killed so its bones were in a good state of preservation. Some of the bones had V-shaped cut marks made by humans cutting and slicing with prehistoric stone and bone tools and Joyce also discovered fragments of “two stone blades.”

Preliminary dating determined these butchered mammoth bones are 13,000 years old and Joyce told reporters “We had a Clovis date, so we thought we had a Clovis site.” This all fitted in neatly with mainstream archaeologists who maintain Clovis people were the first in North America first arriving around 11,200 to 10,900 BC. However, the mammoth bones were re-dated the next year using a more sophisticated technique and the new date clustered around 14,500 years ago.

For the last century mainstream archaeologists have maintained that Native American cultures descended from a small band of Paleoindian people from northeast Asia who walked across modern-day Siberia and Alaska during the final glacial episodes of the late Pleistocene period between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago; known as Clovis First theory. But this mammoth bone dated to long before Clovis people first arrived. It was not until the 1970s that archaeologically approved sites predating Clovis people were acknowledged by the mainstream, including; Paisley Caves in Oregon, Cactus Hill in Virginia, Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania and Monte Verde, in Chile. But the whole idea is still fiercely debated and the early dates are put down to contaminated carbon dating, to the fury of pre-Clovis scientists.

Some of the oldest human remains in North America were found at Paisley Caves, above the Summer lake plain, Oregon. (Public Domain)

Some of the oldest human remains in North America were found at Paisley Caves, above the Summer lake plain, Oregon. (Public Domain)

It seems as scanning and visual technologies advance, our understanding of human evolution gets forever pushed backwards. It is maybe best that we accept our historic models are only as good as our tools of interpretation and with the advancements in quantum technologies it will not be long before most of the mysteries are removed from history. The only thing for sure today is that when someone says they “have the answer” it is only a matter of time before a piece of technology proves them wrong.

Top image: Mammoth tusk found at the kill site in Austria. Source: Asfinag

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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