Mexico: under the airport, mammoths

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In Mexico, digging the foundations of a new airport sometimes holds surprises: the discovery of the bones of a hundred mammoths and other animals that emerged from the mists of prehistoric times.

They are between 10,000 and 25,000 years old. They lie in the perimeter chosen by the Mexican authorities to erect the new airport, much awaited, in the federal capital, Mexico City.

The first discoveries were made in October last year at the Mexican Air Force’s Santa Lucia base in Zumpango, a suburb of Mexico City, site of the next international airport.

Two of these specimens were found where the fuel will be stored, captain Jesús Cantoral, head of the site’s archaeological and paleontological rescue team, told AFP.

According to him, one is almost entirely preserved, because it lacks one tusk.

A dozen workers and specialists work to unearth the bones of one of the animals and ensure that the mound of earth supporting the other does not collapse.

This unexpected discovery inevitably slowed down work on the airport, a flagship project of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who had pledged to inaugurate it in March 2022.

Yet dozens of trucks and excavators continue to plow the ground, like thousands of construction workers, ignoring the bones scattered around the site.

This is contradicted by the authorities who say they maintain close surveillance to ensure that the remains are preserved.

“Constant monitoring has been maintained and to date we have 194 discovery points. More than 100 mammoths, camels, horses, bison, fish, birds, antelopes and rodents have been found, ”explains Cantoral.

Museum dedicated to mammoths

Researchers believe that the high number of prehistoric animal remains at the site is due to the former presence of Lake Xaltocan, which was rich in water and food for the animals.

“There were a lot of natural resources here, enough for several generations,” explains archaeologist Araceli Yáñez, responsible for the area where the two mammoths are located.

The specialist adds that in winter, the ground became muddy, which caused the stagnation of huge animals such as mammoths which died of starvation, which made it possible to find some specimens almost entirely preserved.

In the nearby municipality of Tultepec, there is a small museum dedicated to the remains of mammoths that were discovered there, and last November the remains of 14 other prehistoric pachyderms were unearthed.

The government started the construction of the new airport at the Santa Lucia military base in 2019 after canceling the project under construction in the Texcoco region – started by President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) – due to corruption and waste of resources.

The administration of Mr. López Obrador’s tasked the Mexican army with the new site.

“In addition to this work, another museum will be built dedicated to the remains of mammoths and other animals found in the region,” said Captain Jesús Cantoral.

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