Denver Museum of Nature and Science Excavation Crews Find New Bone Bed While Wrapping Up Work on Ice Age Fossil Dig Site

Preliminary Radiocarbon Testing Indicates Lowest Levels of Dig Site are More than 43,500 Years Old


Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from Snowmass Village: Thursday, November 11, 2010

Note to Reporters and Editors: Every afternoon, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science will issue an update about the fossil excavation taking place at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado. In addition to this e-mail, watch for another e-mail with links to the still images shot today, and a third e-mail that will allow you to download video.   

Today: Excavation crews from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science are racing to wrap up work on the Ice Age fossil dig site at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village as winter weather moves in. If all goes well, work at the site should be completed for the season in the next few days. 

Today, Museum photographer Rick Wicker is working with the dig crews excavating the original Columbian mammoth fossil discovered on October 14. Wicker is carefully photographing the bone bed so a three-dimensional visualization of the original position of the fossils can be created on a computer. He will also take photos as each bone is removed from the pile so scientists in the lab can understand exactly where every bone was located while in the ground.

After they are washed in the conservation lab, scientists will closely inspect the mammoth fossils to determine how the animal died, and what happened to it after it died. 

Also today, excavation crews are working fast to clear a new bone bed that was exposed yesterday afternoon after they removed a seven-foot American mastodon tusk from the ground. Thus far, crews have recovered  fossils from an American mastodon, an Ice Age bison, and an Ice Age deer. The real find in the pile is one of the smallest pieces recovered-a well-preserved sloth tooth.  

Museum scientists also received the results of the first radiocarbon tests this morning. Samples taken from a piece of wood found next to an American mastodon skull in the lowest layer of the dig site are "radiocarbon dead," meaning that there is so little radioactive carbon 14 left in the specimen that it is no longer measurable. This is evidence that the lowest layers of the excavation site are more than 43,500 years old. Additional testing and analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey may provide more answers to the specific age of the layers in the fossil site.  

Media Availability: Dr. Ian Miller, Dr. Steve Holen and Dr. Kirk Johnson, the Museum's chief curator and Vice President of Research and Collections will be available for phone interviews late today by appointment. 

For additional information about the excavation, interview clips, video clips and still images from the site, please check the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's home page and press page. 

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About the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region's leading resource for informal science education. A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205.  To learn more about the Museum, check www.dmns.org, or call 303-370-6000.

Many of the Museum's educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by generous funding from the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District.

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