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Another mother lode of fossils

22 February 2014

Member William Thompson has sent in the title of a book that provides another mother lode. It is Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller, 'Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age World in the Colorado Rockies' which is published under the auspices of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, by the Peoples Press of Aspen, Colorado (2012). You can buy it in paperback online at Amazon or through any good book store – ISBN 978 1 936905 06 5

At Amazon there is a review of the book that was originally published in a trade journal but was reprinted online with their permission. From this we learn a bit about the discovery. In 2010, while excavating for an expansion of a lake behind a dam near the ski resort of Showmanss in Colorado a bulldozer driver unearthed bones of what turned out to be a mammoth. He had dug into the former bed of the lake – much larger than it is now, and it is assumed the animal had been trapped in mud and was subsequently buried in the lake bottom sediments. As we shall see there is a problem with this uniformitarian missive – as lots more bones were found and they may all of been buried much more quickly than mainstream would like. After all, what were mammoth and mastodon and other big beasts doing way up in the Rockies, in an envrionment that has been described as a wetland (marsh).

Ther book is basically the story of what happened over the next nine months as the single mammoth turned out to be an Ice Age site full of bones. The museum employed a bevy of volunteer diggers who went on to move 7000 cubic yards of earth in 50 days – the deadline set by the construction company. The dug it out using good old building site fry pans, the ubiquitous shovel. Some 4000 bones were excavated – and no doubt there are still lots of them down there (now under the water). The book is exceptional as it has many photographs, illustrations, sketches and line drawings, as the excavation was carefully monitored by museum staff and others. This is geological research at its best – and the reader has the chance to see what they were seeing as it came out of the ground. The book also provides the standard geological history for the surrounding area (from a uniformitarian standpoint) which is useful as background. Even after all that effort it is estimated that just ten per cent of the bed was investigated.

The responses to the online review are also interesting. Budding young geologists might like to see what they are missing. The bottom line is that the sediments represent an entirely different kind of environment at the lake when it was being laid down – presumably during an interglacial. Did it all come to an end in a catastrophe?

William Thompson also provided some web links – www.dmns.org/science/the-snowmastodon-project/ and www.dmns.org/science/museum-scientists/technical-reports

Try also downloading the report pdf where there is a lot of data to read.

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