The remains of a woolly mammoth that lived about 12-15,000 years ago have been recovered after it was found by a farmer in a field in Michigan.
About a fifth of its bones are retrieved, including the skull and two tusks, vertebrae and ribs, the pelvis and shoulder blades.
About a fifth of the animal’s bones have been retrieved during an excavation, including the skull and two tusks, numerous vertebrae and ribs, the pelvis and both shoulder blades.
Experts from the University of Michigan think humans may have killed the creature and hid the meat so that they could come back for it later.
The partial skeleton of the adult male, probably in its 40s when it died, was discovered by farmer James Bristle who was digging in a wheat field with a friend to install a drainage pipe.
He told the Ann Arbor News: “It was probably a rib bone that came up. We thought it was a bent fence post. It was covered in mud.”
Video footage showed the bones being recovered in a 10ft-deep pit by a team from the university. The remains have not yet been dated.
Professor Daniel Fisher, director and curator at its Museum of Paleontology, told CBS he knew exactly what it was when he saw the bones.
“I recognised that and said ‘humm, I think we have a mammoth here.’ ”
He added: “We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it.”
The site near Chelsea holds “excellent evidence of human activity” associated with the mammoth remains, he said.
Prof Fisher went on: “It turns out we are dealing with carcass parts of animals, in some cases hunted, in other cases maybe not, but in any event, butchered by ancient humans, what we call Paleo-Indians – people who lived in North America about 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.”
Mammoths and mastodons, which are another elephant-like prehistoric creature, once roamed North America before disappearing about 11,700 years ago.
Over the years, the remains of about 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been recovered in Michigan. “We get one or two calls like this a year, but most of them are mastodons,” Prof Fisher said.