Last Monday, a big discovery was made in the small township of Lima, Michigan. Local farmer, James Bristle, and a friend were digging in his soybean field to accommodate a new natural gas line when they uncovered what they thought was a bent fence post covered in mud. As it became clear the wooden post was actually a rib bone, they contacted the University of Michigan to report their find.
“I think we just found a dinosaur or something,” Bristle’s friend Trent Satterthwaite recalls joking.
The university sent a team of about 15 palaeontologists and a local excavator, James Bollinger, to Bristle’s property where they dug all day, due to the farmer’s tight schedule. Together they unearthed roughly 20 percent of the 15,000 year old mammoth skeleton, finding it to be almost complete. The team was able to identify the pelvis, skull, two tusks, numerous vertebrae, ribs, and both shoulder blades.
“It’s a pretty exciting day,” expressed James Bollinger. “I’ve been digging for 45 years and I’ve never dug anything up like that.”
Three boulders the size of basketballs were also found next to the remains, which researchers theorize may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond.
“We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,” Daniel Fisher, the scientist who led the dig, said Friday.
Mammoths, like mastodons, are distant relatives of the elephant and were common in North America before disappearing nearly 11,700 years ago. According to Fisher, Michigan alone has seen 30 mammoths and almost 300 mastodons dug up , however most mammoth finds aren’t as complete as the one uncovered by Bristle.
“We get calls once or twice a year about new specimens like this,” Fisher told The Washington Post. “But they’re usually mastodons. It’s a bit more unusual to find a mammoth, the species more closely related to modern elephants.”
The bones are now in the process of being cleaned and examined by university researchers for cut marks and other indicators of human activity. This discovery may help shed light on when humans initially arrived in the America’s, which is a topic of heavy debate in the archaeology community.