Man discovers mammoth bones in wine cellar

It wasn’t a vintage red or white, but it was vintage. A man renovating his wine cellar in Austria has discovered gigantic remains from the prehistoric era.

The discovery was described as “sensational” by the team from the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, tasked with unearthing the remains discovered in the village of Gobelsburg, just west of the country’s capital, Vienna.

“Our older, more experienced team members had never seen anything like this before, and they’ve seen a lot,” team member Hannah Parow-Souchen told NBC News on Thursday.

Stone artifacts and charcoal at the site indicate the bones are between 30,000 and 40,000 years old, she added.

Winemaker Andreas Pernerstorfer told Austrian Broadcasting that he discovered them in March while renovating his cellar.

“I thought it was just a piece of wood left by my grandfather,” he said. “But then I dug it a little and remembered that in the past my grandfather said he found teeth. And then I immediately thought it was a mammoth.

Archaeologist Hannah Parow-Souchon prepares mammoth bones for recovery in Gobelsburg, Austria.Yannik Merkl/OeAW-OeAI

After the discovery was reported to the institute, Parow-Souchon said she worked with her colleagues to painstakingly uncover each bone, adding that they gradually discovered several interlocking skeletal structures.

Although other comparable sites have been discovered in Austria and neighboring countries, most of them were excavated at least 100 years ago and have been largely lost to modern research, said the Austrian Archaeological Institute in a press release.

At the time, key details about the environment in which the remains were found and in what condition were rarely recorded, and “some were even sold to soap factories,” Parow-Souchen said.

Using modern 3D mapping technology, she added, the team can learn more about how these mammoths died and what happened to the bones in the intervening years.

It could also shed more light on how people were able to hunt these huge animals, if that were the case here, Parow-Souchon said.

“We have strong indications that they chased them away, but we don’t know how,” she added. “We know elephants have problems with slopes, so perhaps they were driven up a slope and therefore vulnerable.”

Once all the bones have been exhumed, they will be transported to the Natural History Museum in Vienna for restoration and further research, the institute said in a press release.

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