By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
Researchers are finding more mammoth bones at a dig site in rural Mahaska County.
The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History is coordinating a team of scientists who recently uncovered the bones of a second mammoth at the site about a week ago. Since then, more bones have been unearthed.
The team had found a buried tree on Sunday and more bones were discovered underneath it on Monday.
“We started finding bones Monday. We found the upper jaw of this beast with a molar,” said Dave Brenzel of the Indian Creek Nature Center.
The molar is a significant find.
The tooth is very hard and seals in the chemistry of the animal’s environment. It can give clues about the animal’s diet, Brenzel said.
“It’ll be useful for radiocarbon dating,” he added.
The mammoth’s jaw was on top of the rest of the animal’s skull — the front part of the skull had broken off, Brenzel said. About a foot away from the skull and jaw, researchers found the animal’s toe bone. The skeleton had gotten mixed up through the ages.
“It’s just interesting,” Brenzel said of the new finds.
This treasure trove of mammoth bones is encased in block of clay that washed down an ancient tributary of the Skunk River. However, the mass of clay that held the mammoth bones is only part of an even larger clay deposit that ancient flood waters washed into the area, Brenzel said.
Scientist Frank Weirich of the University of Iowa is using ground penetrating radar to search the area for “hot spots” — places to look for more fossils.
Researchers on Thursday and Friday found more bones.
“We found a nice piece of tusk” Thursday, Brenzel said. Also, Jim Roberson, of Muscatine, found rib bones on Friday.
Brenzel said the team has moved a lot of dirt to uncover the fossils and he was glad that Titan Machinery let the researchers use a backhoe for the dirt work.
“It takes a community to dig up a mammoth,” he said.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org