by Brooks Hays
Boise, Idaho (UPI) Oct 27, 2014
Archaeologists in Idaho have uncovered the tusks and skull of a massive Columbian mammoth in Idaho, and scientists there say they have reason to believe a rare, entirely intact skeleton also lies below.
The skull and tusks of the massive mammoth were first discovered by a paleontologist working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The fossils -- which have already been transported to Idaho Museum of Natural History, in Pocatello, for further examination -- were first found in a drainage ditch near American Falls Reservoir. The excavation of the 70,000-year-old bones was assisted by students from Idaho State University.
"The exposed fossil will be cleaned and prepped for long-term storage or possibly exhibit, depending on its state of preservation," Dr. Mary Thompson, who is leading the ongoing excavation for the museum, told Teton Valley News. "This find is exciting because there are still teeth in place in the jaw -- so much can be learned from that."
"This find is exciting because there are still teeth in place in the jaw -- so much can be learned from that," Thompson told Boise Weekly.
The fossils were discovered thanks to recent downpours in the state, which upped the erosion factor in the area's drainage ditches, helping to expose the mammoth. Early analysis of the skull and tusks suggests the massive mammal died at the age of 16. Upon excavation, the two main fossils were quickly protected in a paster mold.
"The scientific value of those specimens is so high that we really need to make sure that they get into the hands of researchers who can interpret these things and help us understand their significance," Sean Hess, of the Bureau of Reclamation, told local NBC affiliate KPVI.
Though Thompson said there may be a whole skeleton under the surrounding dirt, mud and rock, she and her team of archaeologists won't return for further digging until next summer when the ground is drier.
The location of the mammoth will remain a closely guarded secret in the meantime, in order to prevent looting.
Beyond the Ice Age
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