Mammoth remains found in Santa Lucía

The archeologists also found 15 pre-Columbian burials in the area

Mexican archeologists discover trove of mammoth remains in Santa Lucía
Archeologists found hundreds of mammoth remains - Photo: Courtesy of INAH
English 21/05/2020 13:11 Yanet Aguilar Sosa Mexico City Actualizada 19:48

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Between 60 and 70 mammoth specimens were found in the Santa Lucía Air Base, as well as 15 human burials with “modest” offerings and tens of ceramic pieces. “It’s the first time so many are found,” asserts Dr. Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava.

The national coordinator of Anthropology of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says that the finding proves that this area located in the Zumpango municipality was perhaps an entrance to the Valley of Mexico.

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“Regarding the five lakes that comprised it – Xaltocan, Zumpango, Texcoco, Chalco, Xochimilco – this area was a reservoir, an ecological niche of sorts that allowed big groups of mammoths to arrive in this place.”


The ongoing major discovery, that began on April 2019 and that grew in October, is a milestone in Mexican archeology.

“It’s a major discovery; it’s highly complicated to make comparisons but it certainly is due to the number of specimens found. We have to put together all the pieces of the puzzle but due to the region it means that it was an access way, a natural way of fauna,” asserts Dr. Sánchez Nava.

The archeologist asserts that although there are no data regarding a link between humans and mammoths, the studies and analysis they perform in the next years could provide new information.

“Perhaps men noticed this access way 15,000 years ago and organized as a society to hunt; we have no doubts; maybe, with the desk studies and after processing all the information, we’ll eventually find remains of tools, prints in mammoth bodies that allow inferring that they were also used by people back then,” asserts the INAH researcher.

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The project, led by Dr. Rubén Manzanilla and in which over 250 people collaborate, including 31 archeologists and three restaurateurs, expects to make new findings because the airport works have less than 20% progress.

Hard work
“From October to date, that is more than seven months, we have found a big amount of mammoth fossils and, upon their recount, there could be between 60 and 70 specimens; we’ll have to wait, to take them to the laboratory, make the recount of this puzzle of sorts to determine their exact number,” asserts Sánchez Nava.

The mammoths are not complete, “when we talk about 60 or 70 specimens, we mean that there are bone remains that are separated by individual and many of them lack a formal anatomic order, precisely because of the contexts in which they were found, the movement of water, changes in the water level, and perhaps even other animals used the remains and caused their removal,” the archeologist asserts.


In an interview, Sánchez Nava mentioned that the process is to register in three dimensions the horizontal and vertical coordinates and the depth in order to make sketches, register images to determine the number of specimens according to the bone’s size, color, and number.

Archeologists found hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bones of these herbivores that fed on the vegetation the found on the shore of lakes.

“That is why we found this number of mammoth specimens that became extinct 10,000 years ago; but we can say that they arrive over 30,000 years ago and did so for nearly 20,000 years,” said the coordinator.

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Relationship with humans
Sánchez Nava says that although they have not yet found elements that link these fossils with human interaction, they do not dismiss it for that happened in Tultepec, a nearby place where traps were found.

So far, pre-Columbian burials have been found in other places, gathered on the outskirts, in small hills where it is believed those people lived; “it’s important that 15 of them were found and that suggests it is a burial area; almost all of them are in the same position, all of them with modest burials,” says Sánchez Nava.


He adds that these burials are more recent, perhaps near the Teotihuacan period, but, he says, they show the presence of some communities, of hunters and fishers who did not interact with mammoths as did those from Tultepec.

Regarding the ceramics found, it is also quite abundant, “we found ceramics from perhaps 1200 B.C., that is, they are over 3,000 years old, to the Mexica period in the 17th century,” said archeologist Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava.

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