(Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

French archaeologists have uncovered a rare, near-comp­lete skeleton of a mammoth in the countryside near Paris. Near the skeleton were tiny pieces of tools that suggest that prehistoric hunters might have had the mammoth for lunch!

The archaeologists say that if that hypothesis (or educated guess) is confirmed, their find would be the clearest evidence that ancient cavemen interacted with the prehistoric elephants in this part of Europe.

“Evidence this clear has never been found before, at least in France,” said Gregory Bayle, chief archaeologist at the site.

“We’re working on the theory that Neanderthal men came across the carcass and cut off bits of meat.”

Archaeologists came across the giant bones by accident while they were digging out ancient Roman remains in a quarry about 19 miles from the French capital of Paris. Archaeologists even gave the woolly mammoth a name: “Helmut.” They believe he lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. It’s only the fourth nearly complete skeleton to be found in France. Scientists believe Helmut may have become stuck in mud or drowned.

The jawbone from the woolly mammoth skeleton excavated near Paris, estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000 years old. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Two tiny pieces of flint (a hard type of quartz used in the Stone Age for making tools) were found among the mammoth bones. The flint indicates that cavemen cut into the body, but it’s very unlikely the cavemen killed the creature. If that had happened, scientists would have expected to find a much bigger piece of flint.

Mammoth remains are most often found in the frozen climates of Siberia, where around 140 specimens have been discovered, including some of the world’s best-preserved carcasses.

The prehistoric animal disappeared from Western Europe around 10,000 years ago, most likely due to climate change and hunting.

— From wire reports