Ancient people crushed the skulls of giant armadillos

(ORDO NEWS) — A team of paleontologists and archaeologists analyzed damage to the skulls of giant glyptodont armadillos that lived between 19,800 and 15,800 years ago in present-day Venezuela. The researchers concluded that the damage was caused by ancient people using stone tools or wooden clubs.

In an article published in the Swiss Journal of Palaeontology, the authors note that this is one of the few evidences of interaction between humans and glyptodonts outside of the Pampo-Patagonian region.

Modern armadillos (Cingulata) are not very large animals: their mass does not exceed 80 kilograms. However, in the past, there were real giants among them – glyptodonts.

The mass of some representatives of this group could reach two tons. Glyptodonts, like modern armadillos, lived only in South and North America.

Previously, glyptodonts were considered a separate family, but a recent study has shown that they are close relatives of the frilled (Chlamyphorus truncatus), giant (Priodontes maximus) and some other modern armadillos.

Therefore, glyptodonts were placed in the family Chlamyphoridae as a subfamily of Glyptodontinae. In the same work, scientists showed that glyptodonts separated from their relatives about 35 million years ago.

The last glyptodonts died out by the beginning of the Holocene, about 11,700 years ago, and humans were most likely involved.

However, evidence of interaction between humans and representatives of the South American megafauna, including glyptodonts, is rare – and they mainly come from the Pampo-Patagonian region in southern South America.

New evidence from outside this region was found by Alfredo Carlini (Alfredo A. Carlini) from the National University of La Plata and his colleagues from Argentina, Brazil, Great Britain, Venezuela and Switzerland.

The researchers studied six Glyptotherium cf. cylindricum skulls from archaeological sites in Venezuela: one from Muaco and five from Taima-Taima. The age of the first monument is 19810–17420 years BC, and the second one is 17300–15780 years BC.

On four skulls, scientists found damage in the fronto-parietal region – in this place the head shield was rather thin. Researchers believe that the damage was received during the life of animals, since the bones on the scrap are the same color as their outer surface.

This means that they have been in contact with sedimentary rocks for the same amount of time. In addition, some bone fragments in the damaged area were not displaced, which indicates that the periosteum was still present at the time of death.

Ancient people crushed the skulls of giant armadillos 2
A, B – skull from Muako, C and D, E and F, G, H, I – skulls from Time-Time. All skulls, except for fragmentary ones (H and I), show damage. Skull G known only from photographs

For these reasons, researchers believe that the damage to glyptotheres was caused by people using chopping tools made of stone or wooden clubs. Scientists have estimated the mass of glyptotherium at 350-380 kilograms, of which approximately 150-170 kilograms were fat and muscle.

According to the authors, this fact, coupled with the slowness and sluggishness of glyptotheres, made them desirable and easy prey for ancient people – especially if they knew exactly where to hit.

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