The Mammoth News
Fall 2007, Volume 15
The big news this term is that we got the skull block secured and turned over so that we can clean the underside. This was a major undertaking that we had been contemplating and preparing for since last fall. After consulting various experts who have built and moved displays of large skeletons in museums, we developed a plan that worked. Paul Countryman, Exhibits Production Chief with the Illinois State Museum, came up with the design of the metal frame and worked with our Facilities team who built the frame. My students and I secured the block to the frame by tying the tusks and skull to the frame with plaster-impregnated burlap strips. The Facilities team engineered the method for turning it over and performed the task. It worked beautifully!
Alton’s newspaper, The Telegraph, covered the story and gave us a nice front-page article the next day. The next day Channel 4 (CBS) News in St. Louis picked up the story and came to campus for an interview for the 10 o’clock news. They returned that night with crew and a satellite dish to do the story live from our Science Center garage where the skull block rests.
This term we worked on a number of bones and made the following progress:
- Right femur – finished making the storage jacket for it.
- Several small bones (rib pieces, a possible part of a fibula, a thoracic vertebra, a wrist bone) – removed field jackets, removed matrix, cleaned, and consolidated them.
- Large block of 5-6 vertebrae – finished cleaning and consolidating the exposed side of a cluster of vertebrae that included the axis, two cervical and two thoracic vertebrae; started building storage jackets so that they could be turned over and cleaned on the other side.
- Right tibia – removed field jacket, removed matrix, cleaned and consolidated the underside; found a long rib section (~ 2 ft) and a short rib section on the underside of the tibia; these were separated and prepared; a storage jacket was built; the tibia was turned over and the rest of the field jacket removed; this side still needs to be prepared.
- Right ulna – removed field jacket, removed much of the matrix and began to clean and consolidate the underside of the bone; several other bones were encountered that remain to be fully excavated and identified.
During this term we hosted about 160 visitors including school groups, adult groups, and families from the area. We hosted Principia’s 4th grade classes for a tour and activities that included making plaster casts of mammoth teeth. We collaborated with the St. Louis Science Center in hosting families on campus to tour the lab and excavation site, to learn how we do the excavating and bone preparation, to learn about mammoths, and to make plaster casts of mammoth teeth. My students participated in all of our tours as guides explaining what we do in the field and lab and what we have learned about mammoths.
Janis Treworgy gave a seminar on our mammoth project this fall to the Illinois State Geological Survey, her former employer.
Dr. Jeff Saunders of the Illinois State Museum gave a talk on mammoths in the Great Lakes area, co-authored by Janis Treworgy and others, at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists. Janis attended the conference and enjoyed interacting with others who also work with fossil vertebrates – excavating them and preparing them in the lab. She also had the opportunity to meet some people she had been consulting with by phone and/or email.