Gomphothere: Archaeologists Discover An Extinct Relative Of The Elephant

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For the first time, archaeologists have discovered gomphothere fossils with Clovis artifacts. According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have discovered an extinct relative of the elephant along with weapons that were used for its hunting. Fossils of the 13,400-year old gomphothere were unearthed on a ranch in Sonora, Mexico.

Gomphothere and the Clovis co-existed at some point

The site is named “El Fin del Mundo” or the End of the World. Notably, weapons used by hunters at the time were mingled with the bones of the extinct elephant relative. The gomphothere was smaller in size than mammoths and mastodons. But it was blessed with four sharp tusks for defense, said Vance Holliday, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Arizona. The weapons reportedly belong to the Clovis culture.

The discovery of this extinct relative of the elephant in North America busts a long-held belief that gomphotheres disappeared well before humans reached North America. The bones are of the youngest gomphotheres discovered in North America while the Clovis weapons are one of the oldest ever found. Until now, nobody has known that they co-existed at some point. Now we have proof that our quite skillful ancestors also hunted other mammals besides mastodons and mammoths.

Gomphothere fossils are 11,550 radiocarbon years old

Past links between the gomphothere and the Clovis had been traced in Central and South America. Holliday and her colleagues began excavating the site in 2007 after the rancher alerted them about the findings of bones in northwestern Sonora. Scientists used radiocarbon dating on charcoal to find the age of the site. The fossils were 11,550 radiocarbon years old or 13,390 human years old.

The Clovis manufactured their weapons using rocks from the surrounding mountains. The gomphotheres greatly resembled modern elephants. Researchers believe the first Native Americans crossed to the American continent during the last ice age, on their way from prehistoric Siberia to Alaska.

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