The Mammoth News
Fall 2004, Volume 7
The fall class of mammoth diggers was a productive group, both in the lab and the field. In the lab we removed half of the plaster jacket from the underside of the left humerus. Through patient work the students, under the direction of my teaching assistant, Chrissy Wakeling, completely removed all of the matrix and some broken pieces of other bones on this underside, leaving a beautifully cleaned humerus (half). One broken piece may be part of a fibula (lower leg), and another might be a small part of the pelvis. :>[
The students also found our first remains of another animal – RABBIT!!! A couple of teeth and skull fragments were nestled up under the humerus. We now have a Pleistocene assemblage, not just a mammoth site, as Dr. Jeff Saunders proclaimed!
In the field we also made great progress. We found two ribs that are the best preserved ones we have yet. A few other rib fragments were around them. We removed them and some other ribs found in the spring. We also finally were able to isolate, jacket and remove the jumbled clusters of broken ribs and vertebrae that were nestled around the skull block. We had to cut some of the bones that extended into the skull block. :>[ For the third winter, we have put plastic and insulation around the exposed skeletal remains to keep them from freezing. This year only the skull block remained to be protected.
My plan is to extend the shelter to the west by about 16 feet where ground-penetrating radar indicated the possibility of finding more bones. I estimate that we have recovered about half of the bones at this point, but we are still missing the pelvis, the lower leg bones, the lower left arm bones and many feet and hand bones.
During the fall, we hosted tours for 675 people. Many of these were school groups from Calhoun County Middle School, Godfrey North Middle School, and Principia Lower and Upper Schools. We also hosted several field excursions from Springfield and Godfrey, IL, and reporters from the Telegraph in Alton, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and the Jersey County Journal. My students gave many of these tours, both in the field and the lab and became quite expert at it. They loved talking to the reporters and trying to look natural while a camera was in their face.
I gave several talks on our project this fall. One was at The Nature Institute in Godfrey to about 50 adults and kids. The next day they came to visit the site and the lab. I also presented a couple of talks at the annual convention of the Geological Society of America in Denver. I focused on 1) the educational value of field-oriented teaching experiences like this one and 2) outreach to K-12 teachers through the workshops I’ve given and the tours we offer. These talks have all been well received. I have colleagues and teachers asking to come next year already. Benny has been a hit!
While in Denver, I went on a field trip to visit well-known former mammoth dig sites in the area, some of which are known to still have more material. It was great seeing the sites and getting to ask questions of the experts who led the trip.