Earlier this week, the bones of a massive woolly mammoth were uncovered outside of Detroit, Michigan. Woolly mammoth remains are a fairly common discovery among archaeologists, but this find is significant because it is one of the most complete skeletons ever found in the state. In total, around 30 woolly mammoths have been found in Michigan, but only a handful of the skeletons are ever uncovered to the extent this one has been.
The bones were first discovered in a soybean field when the landowner James Bristle and his neighbor Trent Satterthwaite were working to drain water from part of the field. After digging around eight feet into the soil, the two men hit what they thought at first was wood, but soon realized had to be an enormous bone. “I think we just found a dinosaur or something,” Satterthwaite recalled joking with Bristle, as told to the Detroit Free Press.
Researchers from the University of Michigan were called in to take over the site, and Bristle allowed them access to the field for one day to complete the dig. Dan Fisher, a professor at the University of Michigan and the director of the Museum of Paleontology, led the ambitious dig, with help from a local excavator, Satterthwaite, and about 15 other people from the university. Working tirelessly without breaks for food or water, the team unearthed around 20 percent of the skeleton.
The nearly 15,000-year-old mammal was likely killed by a human, according to researchers, which could account for some of the missing pieces. Experts theorize that, after hunting such a massive creature, early humans stored its remains in a pond – a prehistoric form of refrigeration – for later consumption. The bones were transferred to the university for further cleaning and study, where Fisher will determine whether this particular mammoth was indeed of the woolly variety or if it belongs to the “Jeffersonian mammoth” designation, which is a hybrid between a woolly mammoth and Columbian mammoth.