The Fairbanks Spring Mammoth Site, Nevada, U.S.A.

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Program of the VII International Conference on Mammoths and Their Relatives


Under permit from the Bureau of Land Management, we are currently engaged in the excavation of a portion of the skeleton of a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi) from late Pleistocene ground-water-discharge deposits in Nye County, Nevada, about 100 km northwest of Las 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, each of which is about 17 cm in diameter. Other elements are also present, including fragmented and weathered portions of the skull, and at least one scapula. A ground-penetrating-radar survey is being conducted in an attempt to locate additional bones. 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―or on the shoreline of―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.


Mammuthus columbi, Columbian mammoth