The Mammoth News
Fall 2002, Volume 1
Ten students in Geologic Field Investigations 280, under the supervision of Janis Treworgy, continued to dig around the newly found bone in an effort to remove material to the lab. This involved enlarging the excavation as we followed bone.
During this term, we found a number of new bones. By the end of this term, we had partially or fully uncovered 2 humeri (arm bones), 1 femur (leg bone), 1 scapula (shoulder bone), a possible radius (lower arm bone), 1 patella (knee cap), several vertebrae, and ribs. A few other bones were not identifiable yet.
We also systematically sampled the matrix (soil) as we dug. These samples and the samples from the summer auger hole were wet-sieved. The sieved material was described under a microscope in an effort to find clues about the mammoth’s habitat and other living creatures.
We took a three-day field trip to Hot Springs, South Dakota, to visit The Mammoth Site where about 60 mammoths, including three woolly mammoths, have already been excavated from an ancient sinkhole. They gave us wonderful tours of the dig site, the preparation lab, the collections, and the casting lab. A stop in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the University of Nebraska State Museum rewarded us with a private tour of Elephant Hall and the mammoth bones collection by the collection manager, George Corner. This field trip, which I had previewed this summer with my summer students, was definitely worth the effort!
At the end of the term, we buried Benny for the winter to keep him from freezing and thawing. Rather than throwing sand or the loess back on top of him, we put styrofoam peanuts, insulation, and styrofoam insulation panels over him, and then covered the pit with a tarp. We decided that it should be easier to shop-vac the peanuts into garbage bags, than to carefully dig out sand or dirt from around the bones. As far as we (and Jeff Saunders) know, this method has never been tried before. Benny will be untucked at the end of March in time for the Spring 2003 term.
We will open the pit for the spring term with some new students and some eager returning diggers.
We have plans to present our find at two professional conferences this spring and to include this project as one of the Summer Session offerings.
I’ll be updating the web page at the end of every term of activity. I welcome your comments and suggestions. Have a great winter.