A farmer from Lima Township, Michigan, recently made a historic discovery: bones belonging to a woolly mammoth that appears to have been killed by humans over 11,000 years ago.
While digging in his soy fields to create a lift station for a natural gas line on Sept. 28, James Bristle and his friend found what they initially thought was merely a fence post. The hard obstruction ended up being part of the skeleton of a woolly mammoth.
"We knew it was something that was out of the norm," Bristle told the Ann Arbor News. "My grandson came over to look at it, he's 5 years old, he was speechless."
University of Michigan professor Daniel Fisher went to the field and confirmed the find on Sept. 30. Fisher believes this particular specimen was killed by humans between 11,000 and 15,000 years ago, and lived to be about 40 years old.
As the farmer could spare only one day for the extraction, Fisher and his team worked as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"We don’t just want to pull the bones and tug everything out of the dirt," Fisher told The Washington Post. "We want to get the context for how everything was placed at the site."
This particular mammoth has many features that make it a historic find, The Washington Post reports. The skeleton is more complete than most others found in surrounding regions. As the remains have been carefully extracted by paleontologists, they have potential to be thoroughly studied.
"It's really the landowner's call now," Fisher said, as the university needs Bristle's permission to use the skeleton for research.
In a typical circumstance, the university wouldn't have dedicated time and resources to an extraction without some reassurance that the remains would be donated. As Bristle was able to dedicate only a limited amount of time to this endeavor, Fisher and his colleagues decided to take action.
As of Oct. 2, Bristle had yet to make a decision on the future of the remains.
"To really make conclusions about these bones and what they mean, we have to make the evidence available for other scientists to study too," Fisher said. "And we can't do that without long-term access to the material."