​Mammoth Skeleton Confirmed By Iowa State Archeologist

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June 7, 2012

An Iowa State archeologist has confirmed a mammoth skeleton found by a Des Moines family in 2010 when they were clearing their backyard, and it’s at least 12,000 years old.

A Des Moines, Iowa family’s back yard has turned into an excavation site for a mammoth, thanks to the 2010 skeleton discovery by the father and sons of an at least 12,000-year-old, 4 feet long femur bone.

The local ABC news station, ABC5-WOI, explained that one July day, two years ago, a farmer named John, and his two teenage sons had been walking in the woods on their property looking for blackberries. When they came to a creek running through the wooded area, one of the boys noticed something in the water that resembled a bowling ball.

“That is when John, who claimed to be interested in archeology, took a closer look and noticed that what looked like a bowling ball, had a marrow line running through it. After realizing it wasn’t a ball the family dug up the large femur bone that had been buried beneath the mud vertically,” reporter Katie Eastman explains,

For the next two years, the family quietly displayed the bone in their living room, until last month, when they decided to take it for identification at University of Iowa. The discovery got the interest of Holmes Semken, a professor of Geoscience, who then recruited volunteers from his university as well as some from Iowa State University to recover the rest of the fossilized mammoth skeleton that was buried 6 to 10 feet under ground.

“The size of this discovery is quite uncommon,” said Sarah Horgen, education coordinator at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History. “It’s pretty exciting–partially because the mammoth is being discovered where it died. And we know that because we’re finding very large bones right alongside very small bones.”

Horgen went on to explain that Mammoths went extinct about 12,000 years ago, and that they had existed for 100,000 years before that.

“The bones discovered could be 100,000 years old or more,” she said.

So far, after two digs the mammoth’s thoracic and floating ribs, which were 2 1/2 feet each, and feet bones have been recovered.

“The bones really belong to the land owner,” said Semken, who only wants to try and figure out how the mammoth lived and died. “Our agreement with him is we get the science.”