The Mammoth News
Spring 2010, Volume 21
This Spring we reopened the excavation pit for the first time in five years! Since removing the skull block in the Summer of 2005, we have worked indoors on continuing to excavate and prepare the skull block and other bones removed from the pit in our garage and lab. We are nearly finished with the skull block, so it was time to return to the pit to look for more bones. We expected to find more bones in the area to the west 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. So we removed leaves from the pit, reinforced the steps, improved the drainage around the pit, shoveled fill dirt from the west end of the pit to the east end, brought in the Facilities crew and their backhoe to remove the upper three to four feet, and then started digging by hand to reach the bone level.
Early in Week 4 we found our first bone, right at the depth we had expected based on the previous excavating work. Eventually we found a total of four bones – three rib pieces and an irregular cluster of bones that we think are connected. The rib pieces include a couple that are over 35 cm long and up to 7 cm wide and a third one that is much shorter and narrower. The irregular cluster cannot be identified for certain yet, but may be part of the pelvis. All four bone pieces were found within 1.5 meters of each other. No other bones were found this term after digging down about 15 cm below the paleosol that marks the bone layer.
We estimate that we removed about 12 m3 of dirt this term. Fortunately I had an eager group of workers that developed a great sense of teamwork and had an awesome work ethic.
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.
This Spring the class did not work in the lab. A teaching assistant did some repair work on the tusks. Some repair work is all that remains to be done on the skull block.
We had 150 visitors come for tours of the excavation site, lab, and skull block. These included the Godfrey Women’s Club, the Great Rivers Audubon Society, the Geology Club from St. Louis Community College at Meramec, the Eastern Missouri Paleontological Society, the Science Club from St. Francis School in Jerseyville, Principia parents of current students, visiting prospective students, and occasional drop-ins.
Janis Treworgy gave two talks on the mammoth project to local groups off-campus, including the Eastern Missouri Paleontological Society in St. Louis and Great Rivers Audubon Society in Illinois.