Denver Museum of Nature and Science Volunteer Discovers a Huge Skull at Snowmass Village Fossil Dig Site

Museum scientists say skull is most likely a mastodon

Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from Snowmass Village: Wednesday, November 3, 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 from the dig site.  

Please Double Check Your Facts: It has been erroneously reported several times that scientists have discovered woolly mammoths in Snowmass Village. That is incorrect. Scientists have found one juvenile Columbian mammoth so far. Woolly mammoths and Columbian mammoths are different species. Woolly mammoths have never been found in Colorado. 

Today: The Denver Museum of Nature & Science field crews began the second day of excavations at Ziegler Reservoir outside of Snowmass Village, and almost immediately uncovered the top of a large skull. Three feet of the specimen were exposed by a bulldozer that clipped the top of the skull. Based on the fact that two mastodon tusks had been discovered nearby, Dr. Steve Holen, the Museum's curator of archaeology, believes that this skull is from a mastodon. This hypothesis will be tested today as the workers expose more of the specimen. The skull is oriented top up, which means that the teeth in the upper jaw should be exposed by further digging. The teeth of Columbian mammoths and mastodons are quite different and if exposed, will confirm the identification. 

This amazing discovery was made by Museum volunteer Don Brandborg, who has given more than 10,000 hours of his time to the Museum since he started volunteering in 1996. Brandborg is a graduate of the Museum's Paleontology Certification Program, which trains citizen scientists to assist on Museum fossil digs across the region. Brandborg discovered the skull on his first day at the dig site, and in his first hour on the job. "I hit pay dirt. This is just wonderful," said Brandborg of his discovery. 

Media Availability: Dr. Steve Holen 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. 


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, 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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