Paleontologists Recover More Mammoth Bones From Michigan Site

By Athena Chan | Dec 02, 2017 08:52 AM EST

A team of paleontologists found more bones in an excavation site where they found a mammoth skull and tusks in 2015. This time, they were able to find more bones in the two-day dig.

Bristle Mammoth Find

In 2015, farmer James Bristle chanced upon a mammoth skull while installing a drainage system in one of his fields. Paleontologists from the University of Michigan (U-M) were able to recover the mammoth skull with tusks, a few of its vertebrae, some of its ribs, and other bones. The find was incredible especially with the massive mammoth tusks, and a video of it has been viewed over 887,000 times since its posting.

The male mammoth was estimated to be in its forties at the time of his death and is believed to have lived about 15,000 years ago. The bones of the Bristle Mammoth have since been donated by Bristle to the university, some of which are currently on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

James Bristle has since renamed his farm to "Mammoth Acres."

Second Excavation

In the past two years, the U-M team has been trying to conduct a second excavation but has been struggling to find a time that suited paleontologist Daniel Fisher, director of U-M Museum of Paleontology; farmer James Bristle, who tends to his crops in the land until October; and excavator James Bollinger. This past week, however, there were additional bones found in clumps of clay that were disturbed in 2015 during the drainage project.

This time around, the team was given two days to dig the site compared to the first dig in 2015, when they were only given one. As such, they were able to find 40 more bone fragments to add to the 50 to 60 bones they found during the first dig, including skull fragments, an intact rib, and parts of the mandible, shoulder blade, and pelvis.

Evidence Of Ancient Humans In Michigan

One of the main goals of the second excavation apart from recovering more mammoth bones and collecting sediments is to find more evidence of human involvement because in their study of the 2015 remains, they found evidence that ancient humans may have processed the mammoth carcass for food.

Interestingly, the oldest evidence pointing to human settlement in Michigan dates back to about 13,000 years ago, during the time of Clovis hunters. If the U-M paleontologists find more evidence of human processing of the Bristle Mammoth's carcass, then it suggests that humans processed the carcass for food 2,000 years earlier than the earliest known humans in the area.

"So I'm confident that as a result of this second excavation, we'll have more insight into what happened here," said Fisher.

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