The Mammoth News
Fall 2009, Volume 20
This Fall our class started in the lab working on one cluster of broken bones that had been adjacent to the skull block in the field (4N-1E) and another cluster of rib pieces from the southwest part of the pit in 2N-3W. We turned each cluster upside down relative to its position in the field, and removed the field jacket from what was now the upper half. As we removed the matrix, each student found bone in his/her section, which is always exciting. In the block adjacent to the skull, we found several rib pieces and a part of a cervical vertebra. We were able to connect some of these rib pieces to rib pieces found under the skull block – bone pieces we had to cut in the field in order to get the skull out more easily. Careful mapping of the bones in the field and labeling of pieces brought to the lab made this possible.
Final cleanup and some repair work were done on the right ulna and radius and they have now been completed.
Late in the term we worked on the skull block. We first removed about an inch more of the jacket under the skull to verify if we had cleaned down to the area on the skull we had cleaned from the other side. Only a few areas needed additional work, which we completed. We removed several pieces of rib that had been under the skull in the field (resting on top of the skull in its current position). These rib pieces were matched with the pieces uncovered this term. We also unjacketed, cleaned, repaired, and consolidated additional sections of the tusks. One area on the right tusk that received repair work (Paleo Sculp) was the section struck by the backhoe in 2002 when the pit was initially being opened. Additional repair work will be needed as we unjacket more of this fragile part of the tusk.
At this stage, we have only small, delicate sections of the tusks to finish cleaning, repairing, and stabilizing. This remaining work will probably be done by some of my experienced teaching assistants while the next class will reopen the pit to continue the excavation for new bone material to the west.
The current plan is to reopen the pit in the spring 2010 to continue excavating toward the west.We have not excavated since the summer of 2005 when we removed the skull block. We expect to find more bones in this area based on results of a ground-penetrating radar survey performed in the spring of 2004 by Dr. Dan Joyce, archeologist and Senior Curator of Kenosha Public Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
This term we had a couple of large groups and then several individuals visit. We always enjoy hosting Principia’s Fourth Graders because we let them each make their own plaster-of-Paris cast of a mammoth or mastodon tooth. Both the fourth graders and my students always enjoy this activity. The kids also enjoy getting to see the big bones in the lab as well as skull block.
Dr. Jeff Saunders, Dr. Chris Widga, and Mr. Paul Countryman, all from the Illinois State Museum, visited us this term and helped us think about next steps for the skull block to prepare it for display. Paul is the Museum’s Exhibit Production Chief, and he helped us figure out how we can display the skull block. We are so fortunate to have these experts work with us and help us problem solve. There is no formula for going about most of this work. Each project is different. Subsequent to their visit, one student, an art student, did a concept sketch of what the display area (in the atrium of the Science Center) might look like. Other students built a cardboard model the size of the skull block that we will need to move into the display area, and we walked it along the course we will need to take.
Janis Treworgy gave a talk at the Geological Society of America conference in Portland, Oregon, on ways of surviving and even thriving as a solitary geologist at a college. This was part of a session on that topic that she co-convened with a colleague. She discussed the opportunity she has to do authentic research with her undergraduate nonmajor students through the mammoth project.