Mammoth Bones Discovered in Wine Cellar

30,000-Year-Old Bones Unearthed in Winemaker's Cellar


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Picture this: You're in the serene village of Gobelsburg, Austria, perhaps sipping a glass of Grüner Veltliner, when a local winemaker stumbles upon a prehistoric treasure beneath his feet. Andreas Pernerstorfer, a humble viticulturist, wasn't expecting to make headlines during some routine renovations in his wine cellar. Yet, there he was, peering at what he initially mistook for old timber, only to find himself looking at mammoth bones dating back 30,000 to 40,000 years.

Pernerstorfer's serendipitous find in this charming village, located about 70 kilometers northwest of Vienna, has been dubbed an "archaeological sensation" by the researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW). This discovery marks the most significant of its kind in over a century, captivating both the scientific community and the public.

The adventure began as Pernerstorfer attempted to level his cellar floor. What he thought was an inconvenience quickly transformed into a historic revelation. Recalling his grandfather's tale of mammoth molars uncovered during a 1960s expansion of the cellar, Pernerstorfer reached out to the Federal Office for Monuments. The office, recognizing the potential importance, contacted OeAW's experts on Stone Age artifacts.

Enter Hannah Parow-Souchon, a dedicated archaeologist who, with her team, began excavations in early May. What started as a minor dig soon revealed a trove of bones, densely packed within a 12-square-meter area. They've identified at least 300 bones so far, likely belonging to three different mammoths. Among the treasures is a rare lingual bone—yes, that's right, a tongue bone.

This discovery is monumental not just for its sheer volume, but for the chance it offers to explore such a site with modern archaeological techniques. Many similar sites in Austria and nearby regions were excavated over a century ago, meaning contemporary methods had never been applied to them. This site, therefore, provides a unique window into the past, using today's advanced technology.

The excavation, funded by the Federal Office for Monuments and the province of Lower Austria, has only just begun. The team plans to return in August to continue their meticulous work. Parow-Souchon's excitement is palpable—this is her first experience excavating mammoth bones, fulfilling a personal dream.

Beyond the initial thrill, this find raises intriguing questions about the interaction between early humans and these majestic creatures. While it's established that humans hunted mammoths, the specifics of their hunting techniques remain shrouded in mystery. Could this site provide new insights?

Once the fieldwork concludes, the bones will be transported to the Natural History Museum of Vienna for restoration. This collaboration between archaeologists and the museum will ensure the preservation of these prehistoric remains and facilitate a detailed analysis. The findings could shed new light on how Stone Age humans lived and interacted with their environment, offering a richer understanding of our distant ancestors.

So, next time you pour a glass of Austrian wine, remember: beneath the vineyards of Gobelsburg lies a story of ancient giants, patiently waiting to be told.

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