Ice age graveyard reveals ancient mysteriesJanuary 24th, 2011 - 6:26 pm ICT by IANS
London, Jan 24 (IANS) Scientists have stumbled upon an ice age graveyard where many huge mammoths, mastodons and a giant ground sloth died upto 150,000 years ago.
The fossilised remains, discovered at the bottom of a drained reservoir in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, are helping experts unspool ancient mysteries.
They are thought to be one of the largest collection of animals from the last ice age to be found in one place.
Contractors preparing the ground for the construction of a new dam at the reservoir near Snowmass Village, which is part of the Aspen ski resort, uncovered the bones of a mammoth, the Telegraph reports.
More than 600 bones have been recovered from beneath the lake bed before heavy snow halted the excavation, providing new insights into the prehistoric environment.
“It is an amazing site and is very unusual,” said Kirk Johnson, chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in the US, who led the excavation. “It is a true treasure trove of ice age fossils.
“Many of the fossils are pristine as they have been very well preserved. Some of the bones we recovered are still white while we are finding leaves that are still green and tree branches with the bark still on,” Johnson said, according to a Denver Museum statement.
Palaeontologists leading the dig found the remains of four Columbian mammoths, 10 American mastodons (a distant relation of the mammoth and elephant), four ice age bisons, which were twice the size of a modern bison, a species of ice age deer, a Jefferson’s ground sloth and a tiger salamander.
They expect to find more fossils when they return to the site when the snow melts in the spring.
Researchers, including experts at the Royal Holloway University of London, are now attempting to piece together how the animals came to be buried in one place and what the ice age landscape would have looked like at the time.
Among the most dramatic fossils to be found was the skull of an ice age bison, Bison latifrons, with three foot long horns. Weighing nearly 18 stone, the skull measures almost eight feet across from the tip of each horn when it was pieced together.
The animals are thought to have lived between 150,000 and 50,000 years ago when much of northern Europe and North America was covered in glaciers from the last ice age.
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