A Giant Ground Sloth (Megatherium americanum) Kill Site in Southern Argentina

A new study examined subfossil specimens and man-made artifacts at the Campo Laborde site in southern Argentina and concluded men killed and butchered a giant ground sloth and a Patagonian hare (  Dolichotis mara ) at this site about 11,400 calendar years ago.  At the time the site was a swamp and the authors of this study think men drove the large megatherium into the swamp and killed it.  In my opinion the men didn’t have to chase the ground sloth anywhere, and instead just went into the swamp and killed it where it stood.  Ground sloths don’t look like they were mobile and would have been easy targets for a group of men with throwing spears.  The authors don’t rule out the possibility men happened to come along and scavenge an already dead sloth, but they think this is an unlikely scenario.  In a warm climate an animal of that size would rapidly rot and become unfit for human use. The Patagonian hare still occurs in the region today.  It is not actually an hare but rather a rodent that convergently evolved to have the same characteristics as an hare.  They prefer overgrazed habitats, just like true hares, and overgrazed habitats were common in environments where megafauna were common.  The evidence at this site includes lithic artifacts, such as stone flakes, stone knives, and tools made from bone mixed with the bones of the sloth and hare.

Some of the stone tools found mixed with the sloth and hare bones.

Sloth bone with man-made cut marks on it.  Both of these photos are from the below reference.

Megatherium.  They were an enormous animal reaching 20 feet in length and 8,000 pounds.  Still, it was no match for a group of men with spears.

Patagonian mara (Dolichotis patagonum), also known as the Patagonian cavy. Stock Photo - 84876142

A Patagonian hare.  It is a rodent, not a true hare.  Paleo-indians ate small game as well.

Other specimens found at the Campo Laborde site include the subfossil bones of 2 species of glyptodont, vizchacha (a type of chinchilla), dwarf armadillo, white-lipped peccary, camel, fox, rhea, and many smaller animals.  None of these show evidence of human butchery, and they probably died natural deaths.

The authors of this study also re-examined the radio-carbon dates from the Campo Laborde site as well as from 3 other South American sites that suggest some species of megafauna lived more recently than commonly thought.  Some dates indicate Pleistocene megafauna lingered at these sites until the early Holocene, several thousands of years later than when they disappeared in other regions.  However, they concluded those dates are wrong–the swampy conditions contaminated the bones and caused inaccurate radio-carbon dates.  They used more advanced radio-carbon dating techniques and came up with a late Pleistocene date for the Camp Laborde site rather than an early Holocene date.

Reference:

Politis, G.; P. Messina, T. Stafford, and E. Lindsay

“Campo Laborde: A Late Pleistocene Giant Ground Sloth Kill and Butchering Site in the Pampas”

Science Advances  March 2019

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/3/eaau4546

 

 

2 Responses to “A Giant Ground Sloth (Megatherium americanum) Kill Site in Southern Argentina”

  1. ina puustinen westerholm Says:

    Ya just gotta wonder..EXACTLY HOW rotten..did protien..have to be..before a humanish relative..stop, pick the residual ..meat-gristel bits..out from teeth..and say..’no way jose’! Yes..ya DO wonder. ina

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