​42 Ancient Mastodon Bones: Contractor Finds Ice Age Bones In Neighbor’s Backyard

Author: Jennifer HongBy:
Staff Reporter
Jan. 12, 2015

Contractor find 42 ancient mastodon bones in his neighbor’s backyard in Michigan. Bellevue Township resident Daniel LaPoint Jr. has been digging in the dirt for two decades but he’d never seen anything like this, according to USA Today. What he found was mastodon bones, but he couldn’t believe that there were 42 of them in this ancient pile.

The first sign was a massive rib sticking out of a pile of earth he had dug up. It formed a graceful, wide curve. When he saw it, he jumped down from the helm of his excavator and pulled out the four-foot long skeleton.

“Just boom. There you go,” neighbor Eric Witzke said.

The 42 ancient mastodon bones also included a dinosaur, but this find is much bigger than that. These are Ice Age animals, distant relatives of elephants, and these mastodon bones are from creatures that weighed five tons and date back more than 10,000 years, according to the Examiner.

LaPoint and his neighbor Eric Witzke spent four days digging up the unique find before tracking down an expert’s opinion on its origins. Later this month they will donate most of them to the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology.

Daniel Fisher, the director of the U of M museum, has made two trips to confirm and examine the Bellevue Township find. He said there have been a total of about 330 confirmed mastodon bone discoveries in Michigan — but just two in the last year. Most of the bones have been found in the southern half of the lower peninsula. Sometimes people find just a tooth or tusk.

The 42 ancient mastodon bones is part of a collection that includes several rib bones, leg, shoulder and hip bones, the base of a tusk and pieces of the animal’s vertebrae. Fisher has spent several hours looking through what they found and believes the mastodon was a 37-year-old male.

“Preliminary examination indicates that the animal may have been butchered by humans,” said Fisher.

They have what look like tool marks in various places. Bones show what look like tool marks, in places, according to the Detroit Free Press. Fisher said once they’ve been donated to the museum the exact age will likely be narrowed to within 200 or 300 years. However, he believes they are 10,000 to 14,000 years old.

Fisher believes there could be more bones at the property, but LaPoint said the wet earth was a challenge to bring up and go through. Still, the work was the most fun he’s had in years.

“I spend quite a bit of money to go on hunting trips,” said LaPoint. “All the sudden this became a hunting trip right in the neighbor’s backyard.”

The 42 ancient mastodon bones has awakened his childhood love for prehistoric animals. In late November the men decided to share that experience. They took the collection to Olivet Community Schools, where middle school students spent the day getting a closer look at them.

“Once these things go to the museum and get crated up, you’re not going to get to touch them again. It’s over with and I was that kid who wanted to touch that thing on the other side of the glass,” said LaPoint. “All the kids got to pick them up and hold them. Some kids, it was life-changing for them. To change one kid’s life because they got to touch it, I think, is an incredible opportunity.”

Fisher said the bones could be worth a few thousand dollars on the open market, but that their research value is higher, notes the Detroit News. Can you imagine finding something like this in your backyard?

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