The Mammoth News
Fall 2011, Volume 24
This fall in the field we moved the west wall back about half a meter in hopes of finding the elusive pelvis. We came up empty handed, but it was a good experience working in the loess and learning the proper digging techniques. We came indoors just as the outside temperatures at 8am were too cold to be comfortable.
In the lab, we opened a large plaster jacket containing a cluster of bones identified on the map as ribs and vertebrae. The cluster had been adjacent to the skull block in the field. After several weeks of careful work on this cluster, we found and prepared three ribs (12-18 in long), several smaller rib fragments, a thoracic vertebra, and another interesting piece we have not been able to identify yet. The latter is only part of a bone and is in a pile of bones that includes rib fragments and the vertebra, making it difficult to identify. It may be another vertebra.
We opened two smaller field jackets too this term. One encased a thoracic vertebra, which the students were able to prepare nicely, and the other was part of a rib that we were able to match up with a previously prepared rib segment. This rib had been cut in the field because it crossed clusters of other bones. Because we have been carefully mapping bones found in the field, taking photos of bone clusters before removing them, and labeling the field jackets, we were able to reunite these rib pieces. It’s nice when all that work pays off!
We had about 100 visitors come for tours of the excavation site, lab, and skull block. These included the Principia 4th Grade class, Triad High School science class from Troy, Illinois, and a group of the Newcomers and Neighbors of Edwardsville/Glen Carbon, Illinois. I had to turn away a couple of requests due to lack of time on our part.
We took our usual field trip to the Illinois State Museum where Jeff Saunders and Chris Widga show us their collections of mammoth and mastodon bones, as well as other cool fossils and some nice minerals from Illinois. It’s especially fun to see teeth and other skeletal elements of some of the mammoths we read about in class. Then we visit the Changes exhibit at the museum, which puts the Pleistocene (Ice Age) in the perspective of geologic time. Thank you, Jeff and Chris!
This term we also visited the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis to see the special exhibit, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age. It features the best preserved mammoth ever found, a one-month old baby, called Lyuba, found in Siberia in 2007. Her skin, a bit of hair, and inner organs were all preserved! I took a class to this exhibit two years ago when it was in Chicago at the Field Museum, so it is nice to have it so close to campus. ☺I highly recommend this exhibit to anyone in the St. Louis area; kids of all ages will love it. In March, we will host a field trip at our mammoth site and lab for members of the Missouri History Museum as part of the exhibit activities. I will be giving a talk at the museum too.
Update on Last Summer’s Find
You may recall that last summer a contractor discovered well preserved spruce in some hard white material, thought to possibly be clay. We have since determined that it is probably part of backfill material in a former trench. The white material looks like some kind of plaster, but we are getting it analyzed and will know more later. This means that the spruce is from a modern tree. While that is disappointing, it is great to know that we have contractors who are keeping an eye out for possible fossils and artifacts.