Doomed mammoths hung on for several millennia: study

PARIS, June 17, 2009 (AFP) – Woolly mammoths survived in Britain until 14,000 years ago, around 6,000 years longer than previously thought, according to a study released Thursday. The study should settle a raging debate over the extinction of mammoths in Europe, unleashed when fossils from an adult male and four youngsters were found in the central English county of Shropshire in 1986, its author believes.

Conventional wisdom has held that mammoths died out in northwestern Europe some 21,000 years ago during a deep freeze called “the last glacial maximum.”

But the new research, published in Britain’s Geological Journal, proves that the giant tuskers of prehistory hung on for at least another six millennia.

“Our new radiocarbon dating of the Shropshire mammoths shows they returned to Britain and survived until around 14,000 years ago,” said Adrian Lister, a professor at the Natural History Museum in London and author of the study.

Previous techniques used for dating the fossils were not very accurate, he explained.

The giant mammals flourished during the initial phase of the last Ice Age but, despite their “woolly” coats, could not cope with its bitterest c