What do you know about mammoths? Recently, we visited the Waco Mammoth Site to talk about mammoths. The Waco Mammoth Site is an important paleontological site because it is the first and only site to have fossils of a nursery herd.
What is a nursery herd, you ask? If you have ever seen elephants defend the young, you will recall that the females adults of the herd tend to circle around the young elephants to protect them. When the dig began at the Waco site, they found a circle of adult female mammoths surrounding a group of young mammoths. The first ever nursery herd discovered.
The mammoths at the Waco Mammoth Site are Columbian mammoths. They are much larger than the wooly mammoth, which is what we often think of when discussing mammoths. The Columbian mammoth bull that is being excavated, fondly known as Quincy, is estimated to be over 14 feet tall and weigh more than 20,000 pounds. The tooth of a Columbian mammoth is as big as shoe box for an adult’s shoe. The Columbian mammoth is believed to have six sets of teeth which get progressively bigger as the mammoth aged. The set of teeth in the mammoth’s mouth when it died is one of the ways that scientists can help guess the age of the animal. The Columbian mammoth’s tusks are a type of tooth, could grow up to 16 feet in length, and weigh up to 200 pounds each.
The Waco Mammoth Site dates to the Ice Age. We don’t know exact dates for that since we believe what the Bible says about creation. This provides some difficulty when discussing the actual dates with the girls, especially when trying to be tactful during a tour. So, the exact date is unknown as far as we are concerned. We did, however, learn a lot about the Ice Age in Texas. Guess what? Many scientists actually believe we are in an Ice Age now! When you think about the Ice Age, you probably think of the same kinds of things that I do: glaciers, snow fall, packed snow, lots of wooly animals, etc.
Well, the Ice Age in Texas looked nothing like that! It looked much like it does today, without all the trees. (I know – you guys from true forested lands – quit laughing!) Really, though, Texas was believed to be a savannah and, during the Ice Age, to have high temperatures that were somewhere around 80-90 degrees. That makes these hundred degree temperatures seem even hotter if 90 was an Ice Age! This area that was a savannah was home to rabbits, white-tailed deer, birds, and more of what we see around here today. With a couple of big exceptions. And I do mean big! Giant sloths, which stood 20 feet tall when on their hind legs, lived in this area. Saber-toothed cats (we found out they don’t call them tigers anymore since they have determined they are not related to tigers in any way) lived and hunted here. And, of course, the Columbian mammoth lived here.
The dig site is terribly interesting and we were blessed to have Dava be our guide. She is the education coordinator for the Waco Mammoth Site so the girls got a wonderful, educational tour with lots of information. She asked plenty of thinking questions that the girls were anxious to answer and she allowed them to ask any questions they had. She encouraged them to continue to study and learn, which I always appreciate.
A visit to the site will show you all that they are uncovering, though they are not digging currently. There is not a lab on site and the bones are extremely fragile and cannot be moved, even down the road to Baylor University, without extreme damage occurring. So, when you visit the dig shelter, you see all that they have uncovered to date. Dava talked to us about the animals that are currently exposed, including a couple of female mammoths, a bull mammoth, a juvenile mammoth, leg bones from yet another mammoth, a camel (yep you read that right – they believe that camels traveled with the matriarchal herds for protection), the tooth of a saber-tooth kitten, and a couple of bones from an unknown animal. These are in additional to the 20 or so other animals that have been excavated. It truly is an interesting site.
Discovered in 1978, this site has been full of information for the scientific community. After a fund-raising campaign and building period, the site was turned into a municipal park and opened to the public in 2009. It is a wonderful experience and I highly recommend this field trip if you are in the Waco, TX, area or will be traveling through sometime.
Join us later this week for part 2 of T is for…Talking about Mammoths. (Here is the link to Part 2.) I’ll share with you some of the worksheets and activities the girls have done with a mammoth theme, many of which are found on the Waco Mammoth Site’s web page under the education tab. At Home.
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