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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-11-14

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Miocene mastodon, hipparion fossils unearthed in northern Greece

  • [01] Miocene mastodon, hipparion fossils unearthed in northern Greece

    The fossils of prehistoric animals tentatively dated to more than 5 million years ago have been unearthed in Trigonou municipality by crews of the Egnatia company while digging to build a gradient road linking the region with the Via Egnatia highway, it was announced on Monday.

    The finds, in the Dikaia region, include sections of tusks, a molar and a premolar of a proboscidean mastodon, and bones of hipparions (prehistoric horses).

    The work on the road was immediately discontinued, and the Komotini Antiquities Ephorate and the Northern Greece Ephorate of Paleoanthroppology and Speleology were immediately alerted.

    Archaeologists Matthaios Koutsoumanis and Miltiadis Myteletsis, geologist Markos Vaxevanopoulos, and Epohorate official D. Retzos went to the site for an autopsy, followed by a team from the Thessaloniki Aristotelion University's Geology Department, which conducted further digging and studies, comprising Aristotelion University Geology Professor and paleontologist Dr. Evnagelia Tsoukala, geologist George Lazaridis, and speleologist Vassilis Makridis.

    According to the archaeologists, the finds of this paleontological dig were very interesting.The fossils found scattered in the sediments came from large prehistoric mammals, and sections of wood. In addition to the sections of the first tusk, initially unearthed by the building crew, archaeologists unearthed three more sections of tusk, a characteristic premoloar and molar of a mastodon which, following initial study, is tentatively attributed to the Choerolophodon genus of the Mastodon species from the Miocene Epoch, and dated as more than 5 million years old.

    Also found were samples of teeth and bones of the postcranial skeleton of Hipparions -- prehistoric horses with three toes on each hoof -- some of which, mainly the astragalus (foot bones), had intense marks due to water action; and the lower jawbone of a small bovine (gazelle or antelope).

    Dr. Tsoukala told ANA that a future, detailed study could turn up significant information on the region's prehistory.

    The proboscideans of the Miocene geological epoch (an epoch is a sub-division of a geological period), which lasted from 23.7 to 5.3 million years ago, are generally called Mastodons due to the structure of their molar teeth -- the name Mastodon comes from the Greek words 'mastos' (breast, nipple) and odon, or odont (tooth) -- mainly from the nipple-shaped protrusions on the crowns of their molars. Mastodons also have tusks (overgrown incisors) on their upper and lower jawbones, contrary to the more developed elephants of 2 million years ago to the present, which have tusks only on the upper jawbones. Although the mastodons were smaller in size than the present-day elephants, they can be considered large mammals. From the many species discovered, one can conclude that the proboscideans during this epoch had adapted to all the types of the environment, and the variety of tusks is impressive.

    Pictured is a mastodon tooth fossil belonging to the Deinotherium giganteum, a precursor of the contemporary elephant, unearthed in November 2002 in the bay of Siteia, Crete. (ANA/S. Rapanis)

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