South Scotland

Woolly mammoth bone discovered on shore near Stranraer

Mammoth bone Image copyright Solway Firth Partnership
Image caption The discovery was made on the shore near Stranraer

A bone believed to have come from a woolly mammoth has been discovered on the south of Scotland coastline.

The find was made near Stranraer by Nic Coombey, co-ordinator of the Solway Coastwise project.

He said he realised straight away that it was an "extraordinary thing" due to its size.

It has now been passed to National Museums Scotland to carry out tests in order to find out exactly how old the bone might be.

"About a month ago I was walking on a beach near to Stranraer as part of my job with Solway Coastwise, really looking at stories behind place names, and there right on the water's edge was this great big bone," said Mr Coombey.

"It was the size of the bone that really stood out - it was much bigger than any bone I had ever seen before and I'd found whale bones and things like that on the beach before."

Image copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Image caption Mr Coombey said he suspected immediately that the bone must have come from "something really big"

He estimated it to be about 2ft (60cm) in length.

"I realised straight away that it was an extraordinary thing because it was such a large bone and I really had no idea what it could be," he said.

"So I had a quick look on the internet and thought this looks like it must come from something really big.

"In the back of my mind I thought maybe it could be a mammoth or something like that."

He took it to Dumfries and Galloway museum service who agreed it "looked extraordinary".

"They then sent it up to the National Museums of Scotland who have compared it with various bones that they have and have confirmed that it is almost certainly a mammoth bone," he said.

"They now need to do further tests to carbon date it and find out other things about it - so really this is just the beginning of the story.

"Until the tests are done we don't really know how important the discovery is but as the first confirmed mammoth bone in Scotland it opens up a whole new chapter of understanding what was living where and when and so could be incredibly important."

Dr Andrew Kitchener, NMS principal curator of vertebrates, said there was "much still to establish" about the bone.

'Further investigation'

"For now, based on comparison with other specimens in the national collection, we can say with reasonable certainty that this is part of a mammoth leg bone," he said.

"We won't know for certain how old it is until we conduct further investigation."

However, he said early indications could give some guide towards its age.

"Whilst Scotland was almost completely glaciated at the peak of the last Ice Age, there is evidence for the presence of Ice Age fauna around 30,000 years ago, including mammoths and woolly rhinos," he said.

"Assuming this specimen is of local origin, as we believe it is, we would expect it to date to that approximate period.

"While we have evidence for mammoths in Scotland in the form of teeth and tusks, this the first confirmed mammoth bone I'm aware of and so is therefore an exciting and potentially significant discovery."

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