By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
As work begins to wind up for the year at the mammoth dig site in rural Mahaska County, researchers made a big discovery Sunday morning.
Members of the William Penn University Science Club were assisting scientists and other volunteers at the site Sunday morning and they helped uncover a large mammoth tusk. A work crew from Musco Lighting did more excavation work at the site this past Wednesday, so the volunteers had their work cut out for them Sunday.
“That’s a big tusk of a big male,” said Dave Brenzel of the Indian Creek Nature Center.
The tusk was well preserved in the mud of the dig site. The front part had been exposed and the volunteers uncovered the rest.
“The is exactly what we’ve hoped for,” Brenzel said. The backside of the tusk is “in lovely, lovely condition.”
The tusk is massive, but it’s hard to tell just exactly how big it is because it is broken at one end.
“This was fractured probably after death,” Brenzel said.
Brenzel said the tusk goes with some neck bones that have been discovered at the site.
One neck bone was an older discovery at the site, but the other neck bone was uncovered about two weeks ago.
Brenzel held the neck bones of a mammoth dated back to 14,000 B.C.
“It’s a nice confirmation,” Brenzel said. The fossils corroborate what experts have said about the age of plant fossils at the site, he added.
Sarah Horgen of the Natural History Museum at the University of Iowa is heading up the research effort at the dig site. She is very pleased with the results of the research effort there.
“I think none of us expected we’d have this many bones and be this far along,” she said.
The discoveries are a testament to the hard work done by many volunteers and scientists.
Depending on the weather, this may be the last work day at the dig site, Horgen said.
“We don’t want to leave anything exposed,” she said. Horgen wants to get the large male mammoth tusk removed from the site Sunday because it would not survive the winter.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org