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The story of the discovery of the oldest known mummy of a pre-historic elephant was told before, but this latest find throws it up against the stone age.
Dr Ian Wilmut and his son Adam Wilmut discovered the fossilized remains at the edge of an ancient lake in Romania.
For Adam, “The discovery is very exciting, it’s one of the first of its kind.” He’s a forensic anthropologist and assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
The remains belong to a woman about 15 years old, dressed in colorful cloths. And, just like the famous “Brontosaurus” which roamed the Earth millions of years ago, researchers think she was a highly domesticated creature.
This is why Wilmut and his son Adam were invited to Romania to find her.
“She was very well preserved – her feet were totally preserved in her bones,” Wilmut said, “so even though we know that she was probably a high status pre-historic elephant, from very early times, this was a very human-dominated diet.”
The remains appear to have been dumped in the lake by a large animal. It was likely a mammoth or a bison at any rate. It was likely some sort of giant sloth or a massive giraffe.
The remains were covered in a dense mat of moss, or so it seemed.
“So her bones came from a lot of different environments,” Wilmut says.
“There were areas where there are the remains of a lot of organic material, and that’s the best way for us to tell what the diet was like.”
The bone was likely laid out for burial as a mat, but there were also spots where it was scraped and smoothed to reveal its skeleton – possibly to remove mud or dirt clinging on to it. It was almost just a skeleton – but there were a lot of features that stood out. Among them is what appears to be a large tooth.
“This is something that would have come out of a big mouth but in some ways it resembles what we might call a molar,” he says.
Dr Wilmut says that when researchers study ancient remains, usually the first thing researchers look into is how big the teeth were and how
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