Five exquisitely preserved ice-age mammoths were unearthed in the Cotswolds, and paleontology and archeology fanatics around the world are jumping for joy.
“Exciting doesn’t cover it. Other mammoths have been found in the UK but not in this state of preservation. They’re in near-pristine condition. You can’t take it in,” said Lisa Westcott Wilkins of archeology social enterprise DigVentures.
The 220,000-year-old remains were discovered in a gravel quarry near Swindon, England. Two adults, two juveniles, and an infant were discovered alongside tools used by Neanderthals — and researchers expect more to be uncovered as the quarry is excavated further.
Other finds from the era, like colossal elks with 10-foot antlers, dung beetles, and even extinct plant fossils were also identified at the site.
To find complete skeletons in this condition is incredibly rare. “This is one of the most important discoveries in British palaeontology,” evolutionary biologist and Professor Ben Garrod told the Observer. “Where these mammoths lie in the ground is exactly where they died a quarter of a million years ago – next to incredible things like stone tools and the snails they trampled underfoot.
“We have evidence of what the landscape was like. We know what plants were growing there. The little things are really revealing the context of these big, iconic giants. It’s a glimpse back in time. That’s incredibly important in terms of us understanding how climate change especially impacts environments, ecosystems and species.”
The findings will be examined in a BBC One documentary hosted by Garrod and Sir David Attenborough. The documentary, Attenborough and the Mammoth Graveyard, will air on December 30th and will follow the pair as they explore the extraordinary site with archaeologists from DigVentures.
Learn more about woolly mammoths and how scientists predict their resurrection could combat climate change here.