By Juan Manuel Ramirez G.
Zumpango, Mexico, October 21 (EFE) .- A life-size replica of a mammoth greets visitors to the Santa Lucia Quinametzin Paleontological Museum at the international airport under construction in this suburb of Mexico City.
It was while excavating the new terminal that workers came across a 95% complete skeleton of a Colombian mammoth, a creature that became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene around 11,500 years ago.
“The Colombian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) is the largest species that has inhabited North America. It was 4 meters (13 feet) in height and 4 to 6 meters (20 feet) in length, and weighed between 8 and 10 tons ”, Edgar Leal Hernandez, archaeologist at the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH), Efe said on Thursday.
Further investigation during the excavation uncovered human remains and tools indicating that members of pre-Columbian cultures came into contact with the mammoth’s skeleton.
“They (the pre-Columbian people) found the mammoth bones buried and due to the similarity to the human skeleton, they thought they were bones of (human) giants,” suggested José de Jesus Cantoral, a military officer who directs the relic. and the Fossil Preservation Team at Felipe Angeles International Airport.
In the mythology of the indigenous peoples, the Quinametzin were giants who built the colossal main pyramid of the Aztec imperial capital of Teotihuacan, the ruins of which lie beneath Mexico City.
“The first paleontological discovery took place in November 2019,” Cantoral told Efe. “We now have 513 and continue to record more, but not of the same magnitude or frequency.”
The museum is supposed to convey “the enormous paleontological and archaeological wealth that we have found on these lands,” he said.
“In Mexico, we have the largest paleontological collection in Latin America from the late Pleistocene, some 48,000 bone fragments,” said the officer.
In addition to the exhibition halls, the museum will offer visitors the opportunity to observe specialists performing the restoration work.
While the airport is not expected to be completed until next March, the museum could be ready to open by the end of the year, Cantoral said.
The excavations of the airport involve 57 archaeologists from the INAH and more than 500 soldiers.
Seventy percent of the fossils were found on the north side of Santa Lucia Air Base, which is being expanded and renovated to serve as a civilian terminal.
“Apparently it was the shore of Lake Xaltocan, which went up and down with the precipitation and when it fell it formed a swamp, and any animal looking for water had to cross this area of clay soil and get stuck,” Leal Hernandez said. .
Over time, the soil has formed “a capsule in which the skeletons have remained in a very good state of preservation, creating a site that is unique in the world,” he said. EFE jmrg / dr