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Prehistoric giant elephant unlocks mysteries of ancient hunters
9:37am Sunday 22nd September 2013 in News
A PRE-HISTORIC elephant has revealed clues of what life was like for early humans and how it met its end.
University of Southampton lecturer and archaeologist Dr Francis Wenban-Smith discovered remains and has spent the last ten years studying the creature.
Now he has published a book that will teach other archaeologists about life for people that existed thousands of years before Neanderthals.
The extinct straight-tusked elephant was found in Ebbsfleet in Kent, below, while construction workers were preparing the build the High Speed 1 rail link between the Channel Tunnel and London.
The species was twice the size of today’s African elephant and almost four times the weight of a family car.
The 420,000-year-old remains were buried along with other creatures, including prehistoric ancestors to cattle and extinct forms of rhinoceros and lions.
It was also found surrounded by flint tools used to cut meat from carcasses, which have lead Dr Wenban-Smith to believe early humans may have eaten and possibly hunted the creature in a group.
Dr Wenban-Smith, pictured below, said: “The key evidence for elephant hunting is that, of the few prehistoric butchered elephant carcasses that have been found across Europe, they are almost all large males in their prime, a pattern that does not suggest natural death and scavenging.
“Although it seems incredible that they could have killed such an animal, it must have been possible with wooden spears.
“Rich fossilised remains surrounding the elephant skeleton, including pollen, snails and a wide variety of vertebrates, provide a remarkable record of the climate and environment the early humans inhabited.
“Analysis of these deposits show they lived at a time of peak interglacial warmth, when the Ebbsfleet Valley was a lush, densely wooded tributary of the Thames, containing a quiet, almost stagnant swamp.”
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