Ice Age mammoth bones halt construction of new Brussels metro station

Mammoth bones and bones of other prehistoric animals
The discovery may eventually be displayed at the new station - Blega Photo Maarten Weynants

The construction of a new underground station in Brussels has been suspended after the discovery of mammoth bones in its path.

Archaeologists excavating Toot Thielemans station first discovered the antler of a Palaeolithic red deer and the lower jaw of an Irish elk before finding two femur bones alongside a fragment of mammoth tusk.

The discoveries provide fresh insight into the kind of animals that roamed the Belgian capital 50,000 years ago.

Discussing the trove of bones, Ans Persoons, Brussels’ secretary of state for town planning and heritage, said several major finds were being made every day.

“It is unique to discover so many extraordinary objects in one sitting,” she told the Brussels Times.

Rich history of prehistoric finds

A lack of man-made artefacts means the remains of the beasts will have to be further examined with radiocarbon dating to confirm a precise date.

Brussels has a rich history of prehistoric finds as the city is excavated for various major infrastructure projects.

Archaeologists have previously unearthed the remains of woolly rhinos, mammoths, deer and bison, all believed to have lived around 30,000 years ago in the silt of what was the bed of the Zenne, the city’s entombed river.

Work on the Toots Thielemans station is expected to start again in March 2024 as part of the new Metro Line 3, which will shuffle commuters between the south and north of the city.

“We expect to find more as the digging goes on,” said Ann Degraeve, head of the department of archaeology at Urban Brussels.

Once the latest finds have been analysed they will be either exhibited in the new station where they were discovered or at Brussels’ museum of natural sciences.