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Scientists marveling over a mammoth mine in Serbia

Marko Djurica / Reuters

People look at the skeleton of a mammoth at an open-pit coal mine in Kostolac 62 miles southeast of Belgrade on June 27.

What started out as a coal mine near the Serbian town of Kostolac, southeast of Belgrade, has turned into a gold mine for mammoth bones. Archaeologists say they've found the remains of at least five of the ancient beasts, scattered across 20 acres of sandy terrain.

"There are millions of mammoth fragments in the world, but they are rarely so accessible for exploration," Miomir Korac of Serbia's Archaeological Institute told The Associated Press. "A mammoth field can offer incredible information and shed light on what life looked like in these areas during the ice age."


Experts have been finding mammoth remains at the open-pit mining site for years. In 2009, a well-preserved, 16-foot-long mammoth skeleton was discovered about 89 feet (27 meters) beneath the surface. That specimen, nicknamed Vika, was a furless southern mammoth that lived about a million years ago. Another mammoth skeleton, thought to be 500,000 years old and nicknamed Kika, was found at a factory site in northern Serbia in 1996 and is now on display at a museum in Kikinda.  

The more recently discovered bones, excavated last month at a depth of about 66 feet (20 meters), appear to be from woolly mammoths that lived tens of thousands of years ago.

"This discovery is interesting because, unusually, there are many bones in one place," Sanja Alaburic, an expert from Serbia's Museum of Natural History, told AP. He speculated that the bones were carried to the site by flooding.

Korac said that colleagues in France and Germany have been contacted for consultation. Unearthing all the bones will require at least six months of work, he said.

Marko Djurica / Reuters

Archaeologists work to find mammoth bones at an open-pit coal mine in Kostolac, 62 miles southeast of Belgrade on June 27.