Meet the gomphothere

gomphothereAn animal once believed to have disappeared from North America before humans ever arrived there might actually have roamed the continent longer than previously thought — and it was likely on the list of prey for some of continent’s earliest humans, researchers from the University of Arizona and elsewhere have found.

Archaeologists have discovered artifacts of the prehistoric Clovis culture mingled with the bones of two gomphotheres, ancient ancestors of the elephant, at an archaeological site in northwestern Mexico.

The discovery suggests that the Clovis — the earliest widespread group of hunter-gatherers to inhabit North America — likely hunted and ate gomphotheres. The members of the Clovis culture were already well-known as hunters of the gomphotheres’ cousins, mammoths and mastodons.

Although humans were known to have hunted gomphotheres in Central America and South America, this is the first time a human-gomphothere connection has been made in North America, says archaeologist Vance Holliday, who co-authored a new paper on the findings, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, and it’s the only one known,” said Holliday, a professor of anthropology and geology at the UA.

Holliday and colleagues from the U.S. and Mexico began excavating the skeletal remains of two juvenile gomphotheres in 2007 after ranchers alerted them that the bones had been found in northwestern Sonora, Mexico. Edited from Bones of elephant ancestor unearthed: Meet the gomphothere

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