Mexico City – According to an Associated Press report, the number of mammoth skeletons recovered at an airport construction site north of Mexico City has risen to at least 200, with a large number still to be excavated.
Excavators from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have been searching for remains of Pleistocene-era animals at the site, some 50 kilometers north of the capital, since April 2019, when work started to convert the Santa Lucia air force base into a civilian airport.
By May of 2020, the team had discovered the bones of more than 70 mammoths at the site, which was previously submerged under Lake Xaltocan, part of the Mexican basin and a focal point of the country’s pre-Columbian civilization. Today, the remains of mammoths and other animals are still being made at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport.
“[So far] We have found about 200 mammoths, about 25 camels, and five horses,” said archaeologist Rubén Manzanilla López of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
The animals are thought to have died trapped in the marshy soil of the ancient lake bed between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago. Humans may have driven the animals into the mud, or traveled to the site to scavenge the carcasses for food and materials for tools and weapons.
There are so many bones scattered across the construction area that observers have to accompany each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is halted when mammoth bones are uncovered.
Captain Jesus Cantoral, who oversees the INAH’s efforts to preserve the mammoths found at the army-led construction site, said that the project is so huge that the machines can just go work somewhere else while archaeologists excavate the remains.
The discoveries may slow down, but won’t stop, construction of the new airport. It is scheduled for completion in 2022, at which time the excavation will end.