Mammoth kill site was a seasonal hunting camp

A large mammoth kill site, located at Santa Isabel Ixtapan in the municipality of San Salvador Atenco, Mexico, was likely a seasonal hunting camp, according to new study.

Back in 1954, the remains of a mammoth were uncovered during public works at Santa Isabel Ixtapan, with subsequent discoveries over the following decades. A more recent discovery found the remains of another mammoth, where beneath the ribs three stone tools were uncovered, along with traces of human activity.

This later discovery was the first direct evidence of interaction between people of the Ice Age and the megafauna of the Pleistocene in the Basin of Mexico.

Since then, possible mammoth traps in Tultepec and the large number of megafauna remains in Santa Lucia, has led researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), working in collaboration with the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH), to focus their attention on the site in Santa Isabel Ixtapan as part of a new archaeological, geoarchaeological and paleoenvironmental study.

Patricia Pérez Martínez from the ENAH Hunter-Gatherer Technology Laboratory said: “Today we have new techniques and technologies that will allow us to reevaluate the site, not only from a cultural level by looking at the human interaction, but also to make a reconstruction of the landscape to define how it has changed, and to know if the first settlers not only took advantage of the megafauna, but whether they used the resources of the nearby lake”.

The researchers excavated test pits for material evidence and took soil samples for a paleoenvironmental reconstruction, which has led to the interpretation that the site at Santa Isabel Ixtapan was a seasonal hunting camp on the shores of Lake Texcoco around 9,000 years ago, the first of its kind found within the Basin of Mexico.

Small fragments of fish bone, found alongside residues of carbon and obsidian micro-flakes, suggest that the inhabitants of the camp took advantage of and subsisted on the lake’s resources in a diversified diet, along with activities of hunting the megafauna of the region.

Seasonal hunting camps are normally associated with caves and rock shelters found in the mountainous regions in the north of Mexico: “Finding a seasonal hunter-gatherer camp in the open air is very complicated due to its characteristics, and Santa Isabel Ixtapan is giving us, for the first time, that opportunity in the Basin of Mexico”, added Patricia Pérez Martínez.


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