Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waco Mammoth National Monument

The northwest corner of Waco, near a runoff stream that feeds the Bosque River during rainstorms hid an ancient secret that was unearthed less than 40 years ago.
Waco has Mammoths.
The site of their discovery is one of the National Park Services newest treasures.
In 1978 2 men searching the dry stream bed for arrowheads and fossils found a large partially eroded bone. Its unusual size and appearance intrigued them and they took the bone to the Streker Museum at Baylor University to be examined.

This mural of a Columbian Mammoth is life sized at just under 14 feet tall.
The bone was identified as a Columbian Mammoth. Museum staff members and a group of dedicated volunteers spent the next 12 years uncovering the bones of 16 Columbian Mammoths. The bones of these 16 animals were identified as a Nursery herd. They are believed to have drowned together in a single event most probably a flash flood during the Ice Age between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago. They were found with the elder females surrounding the young as if to protect them.

Mammoth Q, a male
Further excavation has revealed the remains of 6 Columbian Mammoths, one tooth belonging to a young saber tooth cat, a tortoise and a camel.

Mammoth W, a female
Most of the excavated bones have been encased in plaster jackets and  moved to Baylor University's Mayborn Museum Complex. What makes this site so unique is that the exposed bones have been left in place and a climate controlled dig shelter has been built around them.  This allows visitors to see the excavation in progress and the bones exactly as the were found.
It was amazing to walk on the bridges and look down on the bones, imagining the size and appearance of these once great creatures. The air is cool and you can smell the earth as you look over the railing to see the bones.  We have visited many museums and seen reconstructed dinosaurs, mammoths and mastodons. There is something special seeing the remains as they have lain for thousands of years.
There is a Mammoth sized mural painted on one wall of the shelter that dwarfs everything else in the building. Fred stood next to it. He was not as tall as the Mammoths leg.
Colombian Mammoths grew to over 14 feet in height and weighed as much as 20,000 pounds. Their tusks were up to 15 feet long and each one could weigh up to 200 pounds...imagine carrying that on the front of your face.
My neck hurts just thinking about it.

It was fascinating to see the excavation with the bones in situ.
The Columbian Mammoth is a distant relation to the more widely known Woolly Mammoth. They lived in North America but in more temperate climates than their woolly relations.
Columbian Mammoths have been extinct for 10,000 years.
The site was opened to the public as a City Park in 2009 and was deemed a National Monument in 2015. It is currently administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with the City of Waco and Baylor University.

Waco Mammoth National Monument
6220 Steinbeck bend Rd
Waco, Texas
(254) 750-7946
Tu-F 11-5
Sat 9-5

1 comment:

  1. This is really a neat find, Bonnie! I agree that it's good that they built the building around the excavation and left part of it for visitors to see. Thanks for sharing this!