A rare finding happened due to sheer luck, as woolly mammoth remains were found by accident in Michigan, when two farmers dug down to drain the water from a field in Lima Township.
- Two farmers had to dig 8 feet into the ground to stumble upon the remains
- They called the university, and the land’s owner gave them one day to dig
- They found 20% of a woolly mammoth’s remains, said to have died between 10,000-15,000 years ago
- Only five or less woolly mammoths found in Michigan were in that good of a state
Neighbors James Bristle and Trent Satterthwaite dug 8 feet deep in the grounds of Bristle’s farm when they encountered what they believed to be a bent fence post. The mud covered what seemed like wood, but they soon found out that it was actually a very large bone. Satterthwaite recalls joking to his neighbor that they might’ve found a dinosaur.
While it was not quite that, they realized that they have uncovered the remains of an animal indeed and promptly contacted the University of Michigan. They were referred to Dan Fisher, professor and director of the Museum of Paleontology. The bones of the mammoth were uncovered yet, but certainly there.
Due to a tight farming schedule, Bristle gave Fisher only one day to dig on his land, so the researcher gathered a team, and then it was nothing but a day-long marathon of digging. According to Fisher “it was a hard, hard day of work, but every bit worth it”, even though they barely stopped to eat or drink. The discovery seemed to have made up for all the immense amount of effort.
Around 15 people from the university, along with Satterthwaite, and local excavator James Bollinger lent a hand and their equipment to get the job done quickly. They uncovered the remains of a woolly mammoth, estimated to date back between 10,000 to 15,000 years old. It’s one of the most extensively uncovered skeletons in Michigan.
The team dug out 20% of the woolly mammoth’s skeleton, including the head, tusk, a few ribs, several vertebrae, and even more. There are only ten sites in Michigan where significant remains of woolly mammoths have been found. Currently, out of the 30 skeletons found in the state, less than 5 have been in this extensive condition.
Bollinger, who has helped with the excavation, has stated that he has been digging for 45 years and never found something quite like that, during the “exciting day” of hard work.
Fisher has estimated that the woolly mammoth was between 40 and 50 years old when it was killed by humans. They had likely eaten most of the parts, and left the rest in a pond for preservation, a technique common during that time period.
The researchers has also stated it might instead have been a ‘Jeffersonian mammoth’, which is a hybrid between the woolly mammoth and Columbian mammoth.
With the dig ending on Thursday, it’s still unclear where the remains have ended up, but the researcher has stated that they will be cleaned, dried, and then assessed on how valuable they are for further study.
Image source: mlive.com