Mammoth bones unearthed during Brussels metro excavations

Mammoth bones and bones of other prehistoric animals have been unearthed during preventive archaeological excavations for the future metro line 3 in Brussels, secretary of state for Urban Planning and Heritage Ans Persoons announced on Friday.

The bones were discovered during excavations at the future Toots Thielemans metro station in the south of the city, Persoons said during a briefing on the exceptional find at the archaeological laboratory of is the government service responsible for implementing regional policies on urban planning, cultural heritage and regeneration throughout Brussels. The organisation also focuses on preventive archaeological excavations during the construction of the metro.

The prehistoric bone fragments and bones are from the Palaeolithic period, when humans learned to make and use stone tools. Some extinct animals, such as mammoths, were still alive during this period. In addition to male and female mammoth bones, excavations have also uncovered the remains of giant deer, red deer and wild horses.

Last ice age

"These artefacts were found at a depth of 8 to 9 metres in layers of sediment from the last ice age," explained Bea De Cupere, archaeo-zoologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. The bones are estimated to be between 12,000 and 120,000 years old.

A more precise estimate will be possible after further laboratory analysis. What is clear is that the animals from which the bones were taken faced increasing pressure during the excavation due to the emergence of Neanderthals and later Homo sapiens.

"The discovery of a mammoth thousands of years old in the Brussels underground is a rare and exceptional event," said Persoons. Fragments of a mammoth tusk were also discovered in 2018 and 1972.

"The current discoveries are of great historical value. We are proud and delighted that the work for Metro 3 has resulted in this find. We are already thinking about how to present these prehistoric remains to the public," said Brieuc de Meeûs, CEO of the MIVB.



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