|The bones were found in northern Chemung County, just south of Watkins
Glen, about 30 miles from Ithaca, in September 1999. The site was excavated
by a team headed by John Chiment, a paleontologist with Cornell's Department
of Geological Sciences. The group included more than 60 scientists, students,
and volunteers throughout the fall.
The find actually includes the remains of at least one mastodon and
possibly a less-complete mammoth. The known mastodon is, estimated to
be a 35-year-old male animal, and is more than 80% complete. Altogether,
more than 200 bones were recovered from the site. Preliminary dating indicates
that the animals lived betwen 10,000 and 14,000 years ago.
"Chemung" is the name of a river that flows through the area. It was apparently named by the region's most recent Native American residents, the Cayuga Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy, after a fossil tusk they found in the riverbank.
The bones were purchased by Cornell from the landowners and moved to Ithaca on December 30, 1999. The fossils are being housed for study, preparation, and public display at PRI. Work on the bones has been organized cooperatively by Cornell and PRI, and the process is visible to the public in PRI's public exhibit facility as an ongoing exhibit.
Educational programs for elementary and secondary schools using material from the discovery have been made a priority. Known as the Mastodon Matrix Project, samples of the mud collected from the dig site have been sent to school groups and other interested parties as far away as Alaska and Europe. This material has been exhausted, but due to the overwhelming demand, a similar project has been set up with material from the Hyde Park Mastodon excavation site.
Mastodons are extinct relatives of living elephants. Learn more about it! They roamed much of North America until about 10,000 years ago. Native Americans are known to have hunted mastodons. Preliminary inspection of the bones from Chemung County suggest that they were not butchered by tools of Native Americans. Marks on the bones appear to indicate having been trampled by other animals living at the time.
last updated 3/30/01
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