The Mammoth Site – Hot Springs, South Dakota

This is an active archeological site where a land developer stumbled upon a treasure trove of Mammoth bones.  The developer bought the land with the intention of building apartments (outside Hot Springs).  They hadn’t dug very far when they uncovered a large  bone, contacted a nearby university and discovered the significance of the find.  The developer sold the land to a non-profit for what his cost was and the dig was on.

It is a long story (like 26,000 years long).  Basically, the tectonic shift which created the Rockies (and the Black Hills here in SD) ultimately caused a large sinkhole to develop.  This hole filled with water and it is believed many Mammoths, as well as other animals, literally fell in and couldn’t get out.

So far (since 1974) they have found the bones of 61 Mammoths.  By examining the bones paleontologists have determined that all were male and all were adolescents.  The age is determined by the teeth and the gender is determined by the size of the hip bones. 58 of the Mammoths were Columbian (among the largest of Mammoths) and 3 were Woolly Mammoths (about 1/3 larger than an elephant).

They’ve only scratched the surface (pun intended).  They have drilled down and found  there is a long way to go.  The tour was fascinating and I was glad I went.

Woolly Mammoths are fixin’ to make a big comeback, ya know…

What really piqued my interest in this was that the author of a new book on the Woolly Mammoth was recently on TV and said they might be able to create new Mammoths using DNA from bones found when ice melted in the Arctic (they can’t get DNA from the Hot Springs bones because they were in non-frozen water for so long).  The author said they might be able to create new Mammoths similar to the way it was done  in the movie Jurassic Park (well, he didn’t EXACTLY say that…).

And we all know how that turned out!


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