Why Were Mammoths Wiped off the Earth?; N. Wales Archaeologist Goes Home to Solve Riddle

Article excerpt

Byline: Emma Bird

ARCHAEOLOGIST Silvia Gonzales has literally a mammoth task in front of her. For the North Wales-based expert in the field of prehistoric beasts has been working on a project in her native Mexico, which is piecing together the past.

Ms Gonzalez, who now lives in Penyffordd, near Mold, is a lecturer in earth studies at John Moores University, Liverpool, but confesses she desperately misses Tocuila where she grew up.

The village, now on the outskirts of Mexico City, went pretty much unnoticed until 1997 when a local, digging for water, discovered the bones of mammoths.

They were preserved in volcanic mud deposits and Ms Gonzalez, who was trying to locate mammoth herds in the country at the time, became involved.

Archaeologists found 1,000 bones, which they believe belong to seven animals, including several mothers and babies.

Because they are preserved together in an area measuring five metres by eight metres, it is thought a natural disaster could be to blame for their deaths.

Since then, Ms Gonzalez has travelled back home once a year to work on the excavation project.

She is now regarded as such an expert on the site that Channel 4 spent a year making a documentary about her.

But had the mother-of-two not left Mexico and moved to Germany when she was 29 to study for a PhD in volcanic rocks, her life might have taken a very different course.

As part of her doctorate research at the University of Trier, she had to undertake a placement at John Moores in July 1990.

There, she met an Englishman and decided to make Liverpool her home.

Ms Gonzalez, 40, who was divorced two years ago, has now moved to Penyffordd, near Mold with her two sons, Jose, nine, and Pablo, four.

As she recalls: "I was only meant to stay for one month and now 10 years on I am still here. …