for National Geographic News
The bones of a huge extinct camel have been discovered in Syria, a joint Swiss-Syrian team announced last week.
The previously unknown species lived about a hundred thousand years ago and was "as big as a giraffe or an elephant," the archaeologists say.
Based on comparisons between the ancient remains and modern-day counterparts, researchers estimate that the animal stood 12 feet (3.6 meters) tall, making it almost twice the size of living camels.
The scientists also found humanoid bones at the desert site near Tadmur (Palmyra) and stone tools with the camel's remains (Palmyra photo).
The finds suggest that the massive dromedary—or single-humped camel—was hunted by prehistoric people, the researchers add.
"This is a big discovery, a revolution in science," prehistory professor Jean-Marie Le Tensorer told the Reuters news service.
Le Tensorer, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, led the Swiss side of the team,
Heba al-Sakhel, of the Syrian Department of Antiquities and Museums in the capital city of Damascus, led the Syrian side of the team.
"What we want to know now is, where did it come from and why did it disappear, never to be seen again?" al-Sakhel told the Associated Press (AP).
The team first noticed fragments of the ancient camel's remains in 2003 at a site in the El Kowm area of central Syria, about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Damascus (Syria map).
But the remains weren't identified until recently, when larger fossil bones were recovered from an ancient spring that the team had been excavating.
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