In Lower Austria, a local winegrower has discovered mammoth bones that are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 years old. It is the most significant find of this kind in more than 100 years. Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who are now recovering the bones, are calling it an archaeological sensation.

While renovating his wine cellar in Gobelsburg in the district of Krems, Andreas Pernerstorfer discovered a treasure: he came across huge bones that turned out to be Stone Age mammoth bones. He reported the find to the Federal Monuments Office, which referred him to the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW).

Bones from three different mammoths

Since mid-May, OeAW archaeologists have uncovered a layer of mammoth bones lying on top of each other. Flint artifacts, jewellery fossils and charcoal had already been discovered 150 years ago in the adjacent wine cellar. According to archaeologists Hannah Parow-Souchon and Thomas Einwögerer from the Austrian Academy of Sciences, those finds were assumed to be around 30,000 and 40,000 years old and probably belong to the same site. The archaeologists are now working on the basis of a “significant bone layer” containing the remains of at least three different mammoths.

“Such a dense bone layer of mammoths is rare,” says Hannah Parow-Souchon, who is leading the excavation. “It’s the first time we’ve been able to investigate something like this in Austria using modern methods.” It is a unique opportunity for research. Other comparable sites in Austria and neighbouring countries were mostly excavated at least 100 years ago and are largely lost to modern research.

Presumed site of death

The find in Gobelsburg certainly raises many exciting questions, such as how Stone Age people were able to hunt these huge animals. “We know that humans hunted mammoths, but we still know very little about how they did it,” says OeAW researcher Parow-Souchon. The archaeologist explains that bones from three different mammoths were found. The site where they were found could be the place where the animals died. Humans could have set a trap for them there.

The find is currently being examined by the researchers and will subsequently be handed over to the Natural History Museum Vienna, where the bones will be restored. The excavations were funded by the Federal Monuments Office and the province of Lower Austria.