Israeli archaeologists found the tusks of a giant elephant that is 500,000 years old

This giant tusk is exceptionally well preserved, and according to paleontologists, it belongs to a species of straight-tusked elephant found near Kibbutz Revadim in southern Israel. The specimen is about 2.5 meters long and is at least 500,000 years old.

Dr Lee Perry-Gal, a paleontologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), said: “The tusk belongs to a straight-tusked elephant, an ancient animal that has only recently been discovered by modern humans. at a certain archaeological site”.

“This species appeared in the area of Israel about 800,000 years ago, and became extinct about 400,000 years ago. This is an ancient elephant species with a giant body, they are even larger than today’s African elephants.”

Các nhà khảo cổ học Israel tìm thấy ngà của một loài voi khổng lồ 500.000 năm tuổi - Ảnh 1.
The 500,000-year-old tusk of a straight-tusked elephant ( Palaeoloxodon antiquus ).

Professor Israel Hershkovitz, a researcher with the Dan David Center for Evolution and the History of Biology at Tel Aviv University, said: “The fossil tusk is extremely fragile and is likely to disintegrate upon contact. with air, sunlight and human contact.

“From our previous archaeological excavations at Revadim, we know that the site was settled by humans during the Paleolithic period, because of the stone and flint tools, as well as the bones animals, remains – including elephants – have been found in this area, dating back half a million years ago,” said IAA archaeologist Dr. Avi Levy.

It is the largest complete fossil tusk ever found at a prehistoric site in Israel or the Near East.

Các nhà khảo cổ học Israel tìm thấy ngà của một loài voi khổng lồ 500.000 năm tuổi - Ảnh 2.
Palaeoloxodon antiquus is very large, with many individuals reaching over 4 meters tall. Currently, the most complete specimens of this species come from a male that is about 40 years old, about 3.81 meters tall and weighs about 11.3 tons, and a female that can weigh about 15 tons and be about 11.3 tons tall. At 4.2 meters, they have long, slightly curved tusks. The legs of P. antiquus were slightly longer than those of modern elephants. This elephant has a tongue up to 80 cm long, which can be used to pick up leaves and grass. Straight-tusked elephants can graze or reach foliage up to 8 meters above the ground.

“During the archaeological excavation we conducted here a few years ago, we found some elephant bones – skull parts, ribs and teeth – along with flint artefacts , such as scale tools, hand axes and chopping tools used to process animal meat,” said Professor Ofer Marder of Ben-Gurion University and Dr. Ianir Milevski of IAA.

“The discovery of the tusk, separate from the skull and the rest of the body, raises the question: was the tusk the remains of a hunted elephant, or was it collected by settlers? local prehistoric people? Does the tusk have social or spiritual significance?

Previous ethnographic studies suggest that large groups of prehistoric humans hunted elephants in the area.

Professor Hershkovitz said: “The concentration of material remains – mainly stone tools – in the current excavation and at the site as a whole suggests that there were a significant number of people at this site during over a period of time and a lot of elephants were hunted.”

“In the hot and dry climate in our area, elephant meat cannot stay fresh for long, so many people must have quickly consumed it, perhaps this action contributed to the extinction of this animal species. in the area”.

Các nhà khảo cổ học Israel tìm thấy ngà của một loài voi khổng lồ 500.000 năm tuổi - Ảnh 3.
The straight-tusked elephant is an extinct species of elephant that lived in Europe and Western Asia during the Middle and Late Pleistocene (781,000–30,000 BP). The reconstructed individuals have a height of up to 4 to 4.2 meters and an estimated weight of 11.3 to 15 tons. The straight-tusked elephant probably lived in small herds, reproduced very strongly during the interglacial period and had a range that spread to the entire British Isles. Archaeologists often only find fragmentary fossil tusks of this species instead of a complete skeleton. There is evidence that humans hunted and ate this species in the past. Currently, paleontologists believe that this species is the ancestor of most of the pygmy elephants later unearthed in the Mediterranean region.
Các nhà khảo cổ học Israel tìm thấy ngà của một loài voi khổng lồ 500.000 năm tuổi - Ảnh 4.
Some experts believe that the Asian elephant tusk is larger than the European subspecies, however current research has shown that they can be considered two distinct species. The tusked elephant is believed to have originally originated in Africa.
Các nhà khảo cổ học Israel tìm thấy ngà của một loài voi khổng lồ 500.000 năm tuổi - Ảnh 5.
Straight-tusked elephants probably live in small herds of about 5 to 15 individuals. Like its recent relatives, the straight-tusked elephant would have relied heavily on freshwater sources, which greatly influenced its migration. Fossil research shows that this species’ diet was extremely diverse and very variable depending on local conditions.

Reference: Sci News; ZME; Theconversation

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