A team of road workers were building a new bypass in Cambridgeshire when they stumbled upon an unusual find – the Ice Age remains of both a woolly mammoth and a woolly rhino.
The discovery was made in what used to be an ancient river but is now a section of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon close to Fenstanton. The bones will be sent to specialists in London for further analysis but experts say they could be 130,000 years or older.
“What I would really like to know is how much of each animal has been found,” Dean Lomax, a paleontologist at the University of Manchester, UK, told the BBC, calling it an “exciting” find.
Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) have been extinct for 10,000 years or so, but they were once a common sight across Eurasia (from Portugal to Japan) and North America (from eastern Canada to the American Midwest). According to recent research, their range may have extended for more than 33 million square kilometers (13 million square miles), making them one of the most widely distributed large mammals of the period.
It is not exactly certain when the last of the British woolly mammoths died out, but we know that they lived in the UK as recently as 14,000 years ago. It is thought that climate change (not modern human) was responsible for their demise – when temperatures warmed, forests took over the grasslands of Northern Europe, destroying the woolly mammoth’s preferred habitat.
The bone was examined by experienced paleontologist Jamie Jordan, who described the find as “a really big beast” and “very rare”
Passion: Jamie has run Fossils Galore since he was 12
The fossil of a woolly rhinoceros skull believed to be 250,000 YEARS OLD has been discovered in Cambridgeshire.
The one-metre-long bone was found by a digger in Fenlands farmland near the town of March.
Once it was discovered, Jamie Jordan, who describes himself as a self-taught paleontologist, was drafted in to examine the find.
The 25-year-old who runs Fossils Galore – an education centre in the town – had found a similar skull before and instantly knew what it was.
Largely complete: Metre-long skull
Jamie said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes – it’s a really big beast.
“The skull is about one metre long and we’re very lucky it came out nearly whole.
“It’s a very rare find so it’s going to take pride of place at the fossil centre.”
An expert from the Natural History Museum confirmed it was “an apparently well-preserved, largely complete skull of a woolly rhino and relatively uncommon”.
Extinct: Woolly Rhino died out 35,000 years ago
Jamie, originally from Peterborough, has been interested in fossils since the age of four and started the Fossils Galore website when he was 12.
Chris Faine, an archaeozoologist from Oxford Archaeology East, said: “Woolly rhinos were around in Britain throughout the Pleistocene period with their extinction here probably not coming until about 35,000 years ago.”
In 2002, an entire woolly rhino skeleton discovered in a quarry at Whitemoor Haye in Staffordshire was described as “the most significant fossil find of a large mammal in Britain for over 100 years”.