The idea of such a discovery today as the extinct woolly mammoth is considered a dream come true for any archaeologist. But that is exactly what happened to a team of archaeologists near Paris, as they mistakenly unearthed a 9 feet tall skeleton of a prehistoric woolly mammoth. The information it can provide about prehistoric life is rare and valuable, particularly when it concerns an area like France, where the discovery of mammoths is an extremely unusual occurrence.
Despite several exhumations in more common areas of Siberia, the uncovering of an almost complete skeleton from up to 200,000 years ago has not happened in the country for 150 years. Not only that, the skeleton was discovered along with fragments of metal tools, which could mark the most prominent discovery of the interaction between mammoth and prehistoric man, ever found in France.
The creature, which now goes by the name of Helmut, was discovered by mistake when archaeologists were excavating ancient Roman remains in Changis-sur-Marne. Helmut is believed to have died at the age of 30, with an incredibly thick coat of fur and tusks exceeding 2.7 metres, after becoming stuck in mud or drowning.
Archaeologists believe the bones, which were found scattered around the excavation site, could have been displaced if the Mammoth drowned further upstream in the River Marne, and then slowly carried down by the tide to the point of discovery.
The shards of flint found in remains are considered to be parts of caveman tools that were being used to cut into the body and retrieve the meat. For this reason, archaeologists believe this is the closest interaction between Neanderthal and mammoth yet discovered in France.
Delighted with the discovery and its implications, Gregory Bayle, chief archaeologist at the site said:
“We’re working on the theory that Neanderthal men came across the carcass and cut off bits of meat.”
Archaeologists are not considering theories about how the mammoth could have been killed by Neanderthals, as the shards of metal are too small to have be linked with any weapon from the time, and evidence of the entire weapon would have been more likely in this instance.
It has been decided that Helmut’s skeleton will be transferred to the Natural History Museum in Paris, and displayed to the public.
Naturally, the story has been vastly popular across French language newspapers, and has prompted discussions over a further discovery in the area previously excavated for other purposes. But my question is: Why name him Helmut?