Archaeologists Find Ancient Bones of Prehistoric Horses, Rhinos and the World’s Oldest Flying Squirrel in Massive Landfill

by Michael Freeman

Fossils being found in odd places seems to be a recurring trend lately, but the latest is particularly interesting. It turns out a massive landfill housed prehistoric horse and rhino bones, as well as the remains of the world’s oldest flying squirrel. The Can Mata landfill in Catalonia seems to contain bones of ancients species that are precursors to not just apes, but us as well.

While an unlikely location, there is a reason archaeologists love the landfill. National Geographic reports back in the early 2000s, site operator Cespa Waste Management wanted to dig new trash holding cells at least 150 feet deep. However, Spanish Historical Heritage Law states they had to make sure machines weren’t destroying fossils or burying them beneath trash. After hiring Miquel Crusafont Catalán Institute of Paleontology (ICP) paleontologists to supervise the excavations, they soon discovered a plethora of finds. Since then, they have uncovered thousands of fossils and many valuable discoveries.

In the 13 years ICP paleontologists have actively worked the site, they’ve uncovered more than 75 mammal species. These include horses, rhinos, deer, proboscideans, a giant panda ancestor, and the world’s oldest flying squirrel. Additionally, there’s a large number of rodents, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. As of now, they’ve amassed more than 70,000 fossils among 260 discovery zones.

A recent find includes a Chalicotherium, a tall, knuckle-walking ungulate. This bizarre creature is essentially a mix of a giant sloth, bear, horse, and gorilla. Researchers also found something called the false saber-tooth cat. It is named as such since it isn’t a true member of the cat family.

ICP director David Alba states there should be enough fossils for the next three or four generations of paleontologists.

Paleontologists Discover Biggest Triceratops Fossil in South Dakota

Speaking of archaeological jackpots, a recent find in South Dakota will be worth its weight in gold. A triceratops fossil found in the state could be auctioned off for nearly $2 million.

Found in South Dakota in 2014, Paris will auction the fossil next month. Paleontologists dub the fossil “Big John,” and say it could go for about $1.77 million.

“The fossils for ‘Big John,’ the largest triceratops ever excavated, will be up for auction in Paris this October,” Now This tweets. “The auction house estimates that the bones will go for as much as $1.7M. The skeleton was found in modern-day South Dakota, 60% still intact & a near-complete skull.”

The Guardian reported Big John resided on Laramidia, an island continent that stretched from Alaska to Mexico. After unearthing the bones, paleontologists brought them to Italy. Though the auction takes place next month, Big John is currently on display in Paris at 13 rue des Archives, in the Marais district.