Hundreds Of Bones From At Least Three Woolly Mammoths Found By An Austrian Man Renovating His Wine Cellar

Published May 24, 2024
Updated May 28, 2024

The mammoth bones are between 30,000 and 40,000 years old and were well-preserved by the surrounding sediment.

Mammoth Bones In Austrian Wine Cellar

Hannah Parow-Souchon/Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of SciencesResearchers discovered the remains of three mammoths in the wine cellar of Andreas Pernerstorfer.

While renovating his wine cellar in Gobelsburg, Austria, winemaker Andreas Pernerstorfer came across something much, much older than the bottles he’d collected: a vast cluster of woolly mammoth bones.

These 300 bones belonged to at least three mammoths, and are between 30,000 and 40,000 years old. Astounded researchers called the surprise discovery of the bones “the most significant find of this kind in more than 100 years.”

The Bones In The Wine Cellar

Andreas Pernerstorfer came across the bones while he was renovating his wine cellar and attempting to level the floor. At first he thought the bones were wood, until he remembered something his grandfather had once found.

“I thought it was just a piece of wood left by my grandfather,” Pernerstorfer explained to local media in Austria. “But then I dug it out a bit and then I remembered that in the past my grandfather said he had found teeth. And then I immediately thought it was a mammoth.”

Pernerstorfer reported the bones to the authorities, and a team of archaeologists from the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) descended on his cellar to investigate.

Mammoth Bones In Austria

Hannah Parow-Souchon/Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of SciencesArchaeologists called the find “significant” and a “sensation.”

“We were really excited when we got the call from the Federal Heritage Management Authority that the bones had been found and we were invited to check them out as specialist consultants,” archaeologist Hannah Parow-Souchon, who led the excavation, told All That’s Interesting in an email. “First we thought it’s just a few bones, which would not have been too uncommon, but it quickly turned out to be a massive bone bed and at the end of the first or second day we understood the full scope of this.”

During their excavation — which Parow-Souchon told All That’s Interesting could be tricky, given the damp, cold conditions in the cellar — archaeologists discovered more than 300 bones that constitute the remains of at least three mammoths who died between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. Mammoths went extinct between 14,000 and 10,000 years ago.

“It is the most significant find of this kind in more than 100 years,” an OeAW statement raved. “Researchers…are calling it an archaeological sensation.”

So how did these mammoths end up there?

Lingering Questions About The Woolly Mammoths In The Austrian Wine Cellar

A number of questions still remain about the mammoths discovered in the wine cellar. Archaeologists aren’t sure, for example, how and why they ended up buried together at the site.

It could be that Stone Age humans set a hunting trap for them there, and that they subsequently perished together. For instance, the remains of this sort of mammoth trap were found in Mexico in 2019.

“How the mammoth got there is of course the central question we are trying to answer,” Parow-Souchon remarked to All That’s Interesting. “A definite answer will have to wait until we have finished all research but we currently think that humans were involved and might have hunted the animals at that location. But it is also possible that they ended up there by natural processes which we will need to exclude.”

Archaeologists Working With Mammoth Bones

Thomas Einwögerer/Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of SciencesArchaeologists have speculated that the mammoths could have been trapped by Stone Age hunters, but many questions still remain.

Indeed, past discoveries have hinted at prehistoric human activity in the area. About 150 years ago, flint artifacts, jewelry, and charcoal were discovered in an adjacent wine cellar. These items were also between 30,000 and 40,000 years old, suggesting that they could have once been part of the same site as the mammoth bones.

According to the OeAW statement, the discovery of the mammoth bones presents “a unique opportunity for research” since “other comparable sites in Austria and neighbouring countries were mostly excavated at least 100 years ago and are largely lost to modern research.”

The bones will be further examined by researchers and then handed off to the Natural History Museum Vienna, where they will be stored for the foreseeable future.

Wolly Mammoth Model

Thomas Quine/Wikimedia CommonsA model of a woolly mammoth. Though they’ve been extinct for tens of thousands of years, their bones sometimes pop up in surprising places.

It’s not the first time in recent years that mammoth bones have been unearthed in surprising places. Last year, a girl in Russia came across 100,000 year old mammoth bones while fishing with her father, and a boy in Oregon stumbled across a 10,000-year-old mammoth tooth while playing in his grandmother’s backyard.

Though mammoths have been extinct for tens of thousands of years, mammoth remains are still all around us. And their bones offer a glimpse at how they lived, died, and interacted with prehistoric humans.

After reading about the mammoth bones discovered in an Austrian wine cellar, learn more about other prehistoric animals who once roamed the Earth. Then, learn about Megatherium, the prehistoric sloth said to still live deep in the Amazon.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Fraga, Kaleena. "Hundreds Of Bones From At Least Three Woolly Mammoths Found By An Austrian Man Renovating His Wine Cellar.", May 24, 2024, Accessed June 22, 2024.