The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

October 9, 2012

Mammoth site work continues in mud

OSKALOOSA — Scientists and volunteers got their hands dirty this weekend at the mammoth dig site in rural Mahaska County.

The work crew at the site was sifting through mud Saturday morning after workers pumped about 1,000 gallons of ground water that seeped into the pit Friday. That’s about the volume of a small swimming pool, said Dr. Jim North of William Penn University.

“We’ve found some interesting artifacts, so we’re screening,” North said. “We started out looking for large bones and we’re finding small ones.”

The crew is working in a stream bed, so there’s old vegetation, new vegetation and lots of little rocks to sort through, he said.

The mammoth dig site has drawn experts from across the Midwest who want to investigate the site.

Sarah Horgen of the University of Iowa Natural History Museum is coordinating the research effort. She said a group from the Illinois State Archaeology Survey was at the site this past weekend. Also, two high school students from Indianola and Pella helped at the site, she added.

Horgen said that so far more than 100 people have worked at the site and several of those have been there more than once. Also, there are between 35 and 40 people on a waiting list to come investigate the site, she added.

Horgen said mammoth expert Chris Widga from the Illinois State Museum has studied a mammoth tooth found at the dig site and identified one of the two mammoths unearthed at the site as a woolly mammoth. The identify of the second mammoth is undetermined, she said.

North said that the mammoth site has been incorporated into the curriculum of William Penn University science classes this semester. He said students from a comparative anatomy class have uncovered about 14 bones at the site.

North also said that he has written a proposal to use William Penn’s scanning electron microscope to study fossils found at the site. If the proposal is approved, he can use the scanning electron microscope to look at the minerals contained in the fossilized bones and the soil of its surroundings to compare them.

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