A new mammoth site in Amargosa Valley, Nevada

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Proceedings of the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting


We are currently engaged in the excavation of a portion of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) from Late Pleistocene groundwater-discharge deposits in Amargosa Valley, Nye County, Nevada, about 100 km northwest of La Vegas. A preliminary radiocarbon date indicates a Last Glacial Maximum age of about 20,000 years. To date we have exposed the proximal ends of both tusks and associated skull material, along with other elements, including at least one scapula. The tusks are each about 17 cm in diameter, which suggests that the animal was an adult male. A ground-penetrating radar study has revealed addtional "hot spots" to be excavated. An unusual feature of this site is the orientation of the tusks, which are in life position relative to each other. Anomalously, the tusks are oriented nearly straight down into the sediment, with their proximal ends projecting upward out of the ground. Our preliminary interpretation is that this animal died in a body of water that was deep enough for the bloated carcass to float in an upright orientation, thus allowing the tusks to be oriented vertically. This interpretation is supported by the presence of abundant freshwater gastropods and tiny bivalves in the matrix. The site is on BLM-managed land, and the excavation is being conducted mostly by student volunteers, under permit from the BLM. The project is being supported by a crowdsource fundraising campaign through the UNLV Foundation that has generated more than $10,000. The success of the fundraising campaign has been greatly enhanced by inviting donors at the $500 level and above to visit the site and assist with the excavation. In addtion to generating research funds for this project, this involvement by people from the local community connects these donors to research and education at their local university.



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