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The Mammoth Eaters: Very Early Man in America

by E.J. Neiburger, Waukegan, Illinois

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.56, No.4, pg.200Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.57, No.1, pg.6


In the Americas, early man (Paleoindi­ans and others) had many interactions with the prehistoric elephants (Probocideans) and other mega fauna that lived in large herds throughout the landscape. (Figure 1) We be­lieve that early man butchered the mammoths and mastodons because of approximately 26 known North American sites which vividly display groupings of mammoth/mastodon skeletons. Some had manmade tools (lithics) and /or butcher (cut) “marks” on the bones. Most of these sites are located in the central US along a line from Texas running north­west into Montana. These include Duewall­Newberry, Lindsey, Stolle, Cooperton, Lamb Spring, Colby, Dent and other excavations.

In the Midwest, there is a unique collection of butchered mammoths/mastodon sites along the Fox river valley in or around the southeast corner of Wisconsin. These sites are unusual because of their relatively great age ( 11,000 to 13,500 YBP [years before present] ) substanti­ated with scientifically reproducible C-14 or Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dates, excellent bone and artifact preservation, and the large numbers of the animal remains. The uniqueness of these “butchered” bones is that they represent animals which lived 1500­2000 years earlier than the first recognized Paleolndian (Clovis) man. If it wasn’t the Clovis people, then who ate these elephants?

There are several Wisconsin area sites which are notable:

The Schaefer mammoth (CSAJ 51 :1/04,p.10- 13; CSAJ 51:4/04,p.82-88) was found in 1992 in Kenosha County, Wisconsin.(Figure 2) It was located in a prehistoric lake bed, now a farmer’s field, excavated in 2002-3 and de­termined to be 75% complete., The bones and associated black spruce vegetation was dated (C-14, AMS) 12,200-12,500 YBP. This estimated 30 year old male mammoth was believed to have been disarticulated and butchered by humans. (Figure 3)Joints appear damaged as if they were pried apart (crushed). Bones, discovered in separate piles (evidence of sorting), showed multiple “cut” marks and breakage consistent with butchering.(Figure 4) The wooly mammoth was found in glaci­olacostrine clay and laminated peat/muck. The only stones found in association with the bones were two handmade chert flakes, a crest biface 37mm long and a small chert waste flake.(Figure 5) These tools were located un­der the pelvis and were probably used in the animal’s dismemberment 12,000+ years ago. The evidence is quite strong and leads us to conclude that this specimen was butchered by early humans. The Schaefer mammoth is on display at the Kenosha Public Museum.

Figure 1.( at top of page )Prehistoric mastodon, bison and horse skeletons from 13,000 YBP. Skeletons on display at the Field Museum, Chicago, IL


The Hebior mammoth was found about a mile from the Schaefer site (still in Kenosha County, WI).(Figure 6) It was excavated in 1994 from the site of an ancient pond. There were two accumulations of bones (piles) found. One in the center of what was once the pond and the other located along the pond’s shoreline implying meat was removed from the carcass located in the pond, dragged to shore and then butchered. The skeleton, the largest found east of the Mississippi, was 85%­90% complete. The wooly mammoth was a male, approximately 26-30 years of age and dated (ASM of bone and spruce fragments) at 12,480-12,520 YBP. It was estimated to stand 13 feet high. Among the bones were found 4 lithic tools: two biface chert knives, a dolos­tone chopper and a sharp chert flake. (Figure 7) The bones exhibit cut marks consistent with human butchering. They include 16 “cuts” on 9 of the 194 bones recovered. One “cut” ap­peared on the left occipital condyle (neck), three “cuts” on the right forefoot and three on the right hind foot, one “cut” on the left fore­foot and one on the right humerus (forearm). The Hebior mammoth is one of the best ex­amples of paleo butchering in North America. Not only do we have most of the skeleton, clearly evident “cut” marks, accurate dating but also the tools used to dismember the ani­mal.

Top left: Figure 2. Schaefer Mammoth site with major portions of the skeleton. Top right: Figure 4. Butcher marks on bone from the Schaefer site. Clear V-shaped incision covered with a patina matching other areas of the bone. Not a recent artifact. Bottom left: Figure 5. The two chert tools found with the Schaefer skeleton Bottom Right: Figure 3. Depiction of early Americans butchering the Schaefer mammoth. Note the assumed racial qualities of the individuals (Indian). Located at the Kenosha Public Museum, Kenosha, Wisconsin.


The Mud Lake mammoth was found in a Kenosha County, WI marsh in 1936 during a drainage ditch project (CSAJ 53:1 1/06 p.36­38). The remains consisted of 21 bones: ra­dius, ulna (front leg) and several foot bones (manus) demonstrating numerous long, par­allel “cut” marks.(Figure 8 ) It appears that the ulna and radius was used as a “cutting board” considering the great multitude of cuts observed. The bones were dated (ASM) to 13,500 YBP thus making the Mud Lake mam­moth the oldest butchered mammoth site in North America. Subsequent digs at the lake in 2004-5 were uneventful . No lithics are as­sociated with this specimen.


The Fenske mastodon remains are comprised of one large right femur (rear leg), a vertebra and a few miscellaneous bone fragments. It was discovered in Kenosha County, WI in 1919 and exhibits some “chop and cut” marks consistent with prehistoric human butchery. The mastodon was estimated to be between 25 and 45 years of age at the time of death. The ASM dating for this animal is 13,500 YBP. No lithics were associated with this specimen.


The Perry Mastodon (CSAJ55:1/08,p.32-33) was excavated in 1963 from a bog in DuPage County, IL, 50 miles south of the Schaefer­Hebior sites.(Figure 9 ) The male mastodon included 115 bones, the skull, tusks but not the pelvis. The animal was estimated to be a male, 30 years of age at the time of death. There were 6 large, parallel “cut” marks found on 4 rib bones which were consistent with hu­man butchering. (Figure 10 ) The specimen was C-14 dated (from wood found inside the skull) at 11,000 YBP. No artifacts were dis­covered in association with the mastodon. The skeleton is on display at Wheaton College.

Figure 8. Limb bones from the Mud Lake Mammoth. Note the multitude of parallel”butcher” marks on the bones.


Based on approximately 26 documented mammoth/mastodont -human butchery sites in the continental US, not to mention other sites in Alaska, Canada and South America, we can conclude that humans ate these animals. They butchered and ate them after hunting or salvaging activities. Until recently, the only early humans thought to inhabit North Amer­ica were the Clovis people who lived 10,900 – 11,500 years ago. There are 12 known Clo­vis-elephant kill/butchery sites. Recent exca­vations at Monte Verde, Chile (14,600YBP), Meadowcroft Rockshelter (15,200YBP), Cac­tus Hill, VA (19-22,000YBP), the above men­tioned Wisconsin area sites and others (even more ancient) establish the presence of man in the Americas significantly predating the Clo­vis peoples.


Ancient skeletons with Caucasian fea­tures have been found in numerous sites in the Americas. These people’s crainometric physical types (skull shape, etc.) are definitely not American Indian. They include the fa­mous Kennewick man (WA 9,000YBP), the red haired Spirit Cave Mummy (NV), Lagoa Santa, Luzia (11,000 YBP), Wizards Beach man, NV (9225 YBP), Penon woman (Mexico 13,000 YBP), LaSena (NE 19-22,000 YBP) and others which local Indian tribes are des­perately trying to rebury under the terms of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). These remains establish the early presence of Caucasian-like, non-Indian humans in North America.(Figures 11, 12, 13) Their presence questions the foundations and validity of many present Indian religions, oral histories and claims to land, casinos, related funding, etc.). It has become a big dollar, emotional-political issue.

Similarities in the construction of Clo­vis lithics, as compared with weapons from the Solutrian period in southern France and Spain (20,000 YBP), have suggested that European- Caucasoid people traveled west along the Atlantic sea ice/ sea mammal routes from Europe to the Americas where they populated the area, chipped Clovis points and and ate the local animals (including elephants).

Figure 9.(inset) The Perry mastodon at Wheaton College, IL. The skeleton display is half-fleshed out and is wearing a large Christmas Santa hat. Figure 10.”Butcher” cut marks on the Perry mastodon rib. Scale in centimeters

DNA analysis of present native popula­tions, a strong source of evidence, has shown that a single population entered North Amer­ica from Siberia around 20,000-30,000 YBP. These were related to early Jomon/Ainu (Caucasoid) people from eastern Asia.(Fig­ures 12,13,14) Another group came around 5,000-6,500 YBP. These folk were related to the Eskimo, Aleut and Navajo (Mongoloid race). There are some exceptions but this data available at this time demonstrates that two great waves of people entered the Americas from Asia at different times. Occupation of lands beneath the Canadian ice sheet began around 16,500 YBP. Kennewick man (9,000 YBP) and his relatives were in the first wave.


DNA analysis of living and dead popu­lations of the world can be traced, start­ing from the birthplace of man, East Africa. Each group that came from Africa possessed genetically inherited unique DNA markers called Haplogroups. These Haplogroups can be further separated into sub groups which are related not only to the first humans in Africa but are carried by their descendents up to modern times. A large population of people with one Haplogroup/ sub-type liv­ing in one area indicate that their ancestors traveled there at some period in the past. In this way, people and their ancestor’s migra­tion routes can be identified and classified.

There are 5 mtDNA Haplogroups (fe­maleline) represented in the early Americas(A,B,C,D,X). There are 2 “Y” Chromosome (male line) groups (C, Q) also represented. All of these groups are found in northern Asian/Siberian populations except Haplogroup X which is found in southern Central Asia and Europe.

The Genographic project is a DNA map­ping effort sponsored by the National Geo­graphic Society which traces DNA Haplo­group markers throughout the world. (Figure 14) There are approximately 78,000 partici­pants at this time. The DNA, supplied from subjects, are analyzed and their ancestor’s migrations (over the last 40,000 years) are dated and charted by testing and comparing the DNA of local populations along the sus­pected migration route. For a $100 fee and some cheek scrapings you can have your DNA collected, analyzed and mapped over the world and time. You may want to Google “Genographic project” for more information. There is a connection to the mammoth eaters.

Figure 11. (center)Side views of the Kennewick man and actor Patrick Stewart, both showing multiple and almost identi­cal Caucasian features. Figure 12. (left)Kennewick man’s skull showing a long head, narrow facial contour, high orbits, narrow cheekbones and other qualities used to identify him as Caucasian (oid). Mongoloid and American Indian people have round heads, wide faces, low orbits and wide cheekbones. Figure 13. (right)Upper jaw of the Kennewick man showing parabolic dental arch, narrow zygoma (cheeks) and ‘spade’ (flat lingual surface) shaped incisor teeth. Mongolian and Amer­ican Indians have an elliptical dental arch, broad zygoma and “shovel”(scooped out lingual surface) shaped incisor teeth.


This author is a male Caucasian (white guy) and comes from two Ashkenazi Jewish families that emigrated to North America from Latvia and the Ukraine in the early 1900s. I had a Genographic mapping done and found my ancestor’s genotype (DNA- Haplogroup Q-M242 ) to start in the Rift Valley in Africa (like all humans) 31,000-79,000 years ago (Q-M168). (Figure 15) As they moved, their DNA mutated. The ancestors traveled north to the Middle East (Q-M89) and split into two groups. One moved north west into Europe, the other moved into Afghanistan (Q-M9), then north into Russia (Q-M45) and east into Siberia (Q-M242), and then over the Bering straights to Alaska (Q-M242). The trail stops in Alaska because of a dearth of willing DNA volunteers (Native Americans-Indians) in the area.

The point is that this DNA evidence is scientifically reliable and shows that some of my, and many other non-Indian, ances­tors with the Q-M242 Haplogroup, as well as Haplogroup X, traveled from Africa to Alaska sometimes in the last 40,000 years. It sub­stantiates that, like the Kennewick man, Spirit Cave mummy and their relatives, Caucasians (e.g. my ancestors ) entered the Americas over the Bearing Straights at a time considerably earlier than the ancestors of today’s American Indians. Some of my Caucasian ancestors were genetically the first Native Americans and they came from Asia. Other relatives (my parent/grandparents) came later on ocean lin­ers from Europe. The first group were the mammoth eaters.

Figure 14. The author’s Genographic profile identifying DNA Haplogroups and the prehistoric migration routes of his ancestors from Africa into the Mid East, central Asia, Siberia and the Americas. The author in not related to any American Indians.


So who are the mammoth/mastodon eat­ers? There is clear evidence that early North Americans, whether they came from Asia or Europe, ate these animals. The many butch­ery sites in the US indicate early and frequent meals. The enormous herds of elephants which roamed the land became easy pickings; somewhat like what we see in today’s Masa Mara or Serengetti African parks where there is no problem hunting because hundreds of migrating animals drop sick or dead every day and are finished off and eaten by the local carnivores who follow the herds. Early man probably followed the herds too and patiently waited for some elephant to drop out. Those “dropouts”, which didn’t drop dead immedi­ately were easily to kill…easy pickings.

These folk were not what we term “American Indians”. In the early times, they may not have been even “Paleo Indians”. They were Asian, Caucasian-like, peoples who probably migrat­ed, interbred, died out and were repopulated by multiple waves of subsequent immigrants who peopled North America over thousands of years. How exactly this was done and by whom has yet to be refined. New archaeologi­cal discoveries and increased numbers of na­tive people participating in DNA studies will fill in this story. Think about your own contribution.

 “Used by Permission of the Author”
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