The Mammoth News
Fall 2003, Volume 4
During this Fall term we worked on excavating a number of poorly preserved rib and vertebrae bones, many of which are adjacent to the skull block. The poor preservation and the overlapping nature of many of these bones make it difficult to make fast progress. We succeeded in removing two blocks each with five vertebrae. One block may have been lumbar vertebrae, the other included two cervical vertebrae and three thoracic vertebrae. We also isolated and removed one thoracic vertebra.
We also moved the west and south walls back about one foot to expose the left scapula that was found and capped in the spring of 2003. Progress was slow because it was in a corner and hard to access. Also other bones turned up adjacent to it including what may be half of the pelvis! Unfortunately the scapula was damaged in a last-minute effort to remove it before the winter.
On Halloween my class surprised me by showing up in cave people costume. I was definitely surprised! It was a real hit with visitors that day too!
At the end of the term, we buried Benny again for the winter, reusing the same materials we had used last year.
This fall I had a parent, Ken Bruland, offer to pay for getting a radiocarbon date on Benny! I was so excited! He is a colleague of a highly respected paleontologist, Dr. Paul Koch, at the University of California-Santa Cruz. This was great news and we are currently awaiting results! Paul’s lab prepares the sample for the dating, and then it is sent over to the Lawrence Livermore Lab for the analysis. Paul’s lab will also be running stable isotopes in order to determine Benny’s specific diet. Samples for both sets of tests were taken from the dentine in a piece of the mandibular tooth. We are very grateful to Ken for this donation and contact!
We hosted over 250 visitors at the pit this fall, including parents of new students during new parents’ orientation, 4th graders and high schoolers from Principia, Alton Christian Home Educators Coalition with kids of all ages, Western Illinois University Geology Club, geologists and archeologists from St. Louis and Illinois.
Rich Judkins, a Principia student who has participated in the mammoth program at length, gave a talk at the Illinois State Museum on our trip to the International Mammoth Conference in the Yukon.
I gave four talks to various groups in Chicago, Springfield (IL), and St. Louis, including a Principia Club, the Illinois Rock Club (LOESS), the Mounds City Archeology Society, and the St. Louis chapter of AAUW.
Chrissy Wakeling, one of my students and Geology minors, accompanied me to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle where we gave a poster presentation on our project. I gave a separate talk on collaboration with K-12 teachers on the project. Both presentations were well received. I’m already booking school visits to the site and talks for the spring!
Chrissy McAllister (Prin Biology faculty), Jeff Saunders (Illinois State Museum), and I will work on preparing the right humerus that we started during the summer. We will clean it meticulously, consolidate it by heavily applying Butvar, and then make the first half of the storage mold for it. The next step will be to turn the bone over, resting it in its new mold, and do the same to the other side.