130,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth And Rhino Bones Unearthed By Road Workers In England

Realistic life-size replica model of a woolly mammoth with skeleton fossil at Shanghai Natural History Museum.
AKKHARAT JARUSILAWONG / Shutterstock

The ancient remains of two Ice Age creatures — a woolly mammoth and a woolly rhino — were recently uncovered in Cambridgeshire, England, reports Fox News, citing the British news agency SWNS.

Labeled by paleontologists as a “remarkable find,” the prehistoric bones are estimated to date back to 130,000 years ago and were discovered in an area that is believed to have once been an ancient river.

Unearthed between Cambridge and Huntingdon, the fossils were dug up by a Highways England construction crew working to expand the A14 highway — a £1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) project due to open in December 2020, notes the local media outlet Cambridge News.

“The remains of a woolly mammoth dating back to the ice age are among the latest remarkable finds from the team working on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon project,” a Highways England spokesman said in a statement.

According to the source, the woolly mammoth and rhino bones were found “during excavations for construction materials near Fenstanton.”

“They are the latest in a series of fantastic finds from the team building the new road, with other remarkable discoveries including prehistoric henges, Iron Age settlements, Roman pottery kilns, three Anglo-Saxon villages, and a deserted medieval village.”

While the newfound fossils are believed to be at least 130,000-years-old, the bones will be examined by a team of experts looking to establish their exact age. The ancient remains are to be sent to London for analysis, per the BBC.

Commenting on this incredible find, British paleontologist Dean Lomax described the discovery as “exciting” and “quite uncommon.”

“Woolly mammoth and woolly rhino were once a common part of the wildlife here in the UK, during the Ice Age,” said Lomax. “However, recent discoveries like this are quite uncommon and it is exciting that they have been uncovered during road works.”

As Lomax pointed out, there is a chance that more specimens could turn up in the same area, adding to the number of impressive discoveries yielded by the construction site.

The paleontologist also stressed the importance of handling the specimens with “great care” so that the ancient remains are properly preserved.

“These types of bone, especially mammoth tusk, can deteriorate quite poorly if left untreated,” said Lomax.

The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) roamed the tundra of the Pleistocene up until 10,000 years ago when this ancient species of mammoth became extinct — at the hands of human hunters and global warming. In their glory days, woolly mammoths could grow to be almost 12 feet tall (3.5 meters) and weighed around six tons.

Meanwhile, the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis) was considerably smaller and slenderer and occupied the Pleistocene territories that are now modern-day Europe and Asia.

Woolly rhinoceros replica and skeleton at the Jurassic Museum of Asturias, Spain.
Woolly rhinoceros replica and skeleton at the Jurassic Museum of Asturias, Spain. plg photo / Shutterstock

Also a member of the Pleistocene megafauna, the woolly rhino stood 6.6 feet tall (a little over two meters) and measured up to 12.6 feet in length (3.81 meters), tipping the scales at two to three tons. The species died out in 8,000 BC — with some studies pointing to climate change as the cause of its demise.