Michigan Farmer Digs Up Woolly Mammoth Bones in Field

Michigan Farmer Digs Up Woolly Mammoth Bones in Field


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Last Monday, farmer James Bristle and his neighbor were digging a trench to install a drainage pipe in his wheat field on the outskirts of Chelsea, Michigan, when their backhoe suddenly struck something hard about eight feet underground. At first, the pair thought they had hit a buried piece of wood, perhaps a fence post, but they soon realized they had uncovered something neither had ever seen before—an enormous three-foot-long bone.

“We didn’t know what it was, but we knew it was certainly a lot bigger than a cow bone,” Bristle said. Believing the strange object may have been a dinosaur bone, the farmer contacted the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, located just 10 miles away from his field.

Daniel Fisher, a professor and director of the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, arrived at Bristle’s farm last Thursday with a team of 15 students to investigate the relic. With time of the essence because of a tight harvest schedule, Bristle gave the team of paleontologists only one day to complete their work before he needed to resume his drainage project. So at dawn’s early light, Fisher’s team—with the help of two local excavators—began to dig a 10-foot-deep excavation pit. Working briskly, the paleontologist soon discovered that Bristle’s farm contained the remains of a prehistoric mammoth.

Curious locals gathered throughout the day as news of the discovery spread. By sunset, without a break to eat or drink, the crew had excavated approximately 20 percent of the bones of the prehistoric elephant-like creature. Using zip lines attached to a backhoe, the paleontologists carefully hoisted the mammoth’s gigantic skull and tusks and placed it on a flatbed trailer along with the skeleton’s vertebrae, ribs, pelvis and shoulder blades before filling in the pit.

Mammoths roamed North America until their disappearance about 11,700 years ago, and the remains of only 30 of the massive prehistoric animals have previously been found in Michigan. Fisher told the Detroit Free Press, however, that no more than five of those skeletons have been uncovered as extensively as the one they found in Bristle’s field.

The mammoth’s remains still need to be dated, but Fisher said the bones are from an adult male that likely lived between 11,700 and 15,000 years ago and was in its 40s when it died. The paleontologist said the specimen was a Jeffersonian mammoth—a hybrid between a woolly mammoth and a Columbian mammoth named for founding father Thomas Jefferson, who had a keen interest in paleontology.

Fisher noted there was “excellent evidence of human activity” associated with the mammoth remains, and he theorizes that ancient humans carved the animal and submerged the carcass in a pond to preserve the meat for later use. “We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,” he said. The evidence included three basketball-sized boulders found with the remains—which may have been used to weigh down the carcass—a stone flake resting next to one of the tusks that could have been used as a cutting tool and the positioning of the neck vertebrae in correct anatomical sequence as opposed to a random scattering that normally happens after a natural death.

Bristle has agreed to donate the mammoth’s bones to the University of Michigan for further study. The paleontologists will wash the specimen, which will be known as the Bristle Mammoth in honor of the farmer, and check for cut marks that could confirm it was butchered. If there is evidence of human consumption of the mammoth, the eventual dating of the bones could help to push back the date of the earliest known habitation of southeast Michigan. Fisher hopes to display the bones at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, possibly combined with fiberglass casts of bones from other Michigan mammoths to form a complete skeleton.

“This isn’t just mine. It belongs to everybody,” Bristle said of his decision to donate the specimen to the University of Michigan. “This is our way of giving back. A lot of people will benefit from being able to see this mammoth for many years to come. If I can make people happy by doing that, then I consider that a good day.”

The farmer isn’t hoping for a repeat of the experience, though. “I hope it doesn’t happen again,” Bristle said. “We need to get back to farming.”


Farmer finds 15,000-year-old woolly mammoth remains in Michigan field

James Bristle and a friend were digging in his southern Michigan soybean field when they unearthed what looked like a bent fence post, caked with mud. Instead, it was part of a pelvis from an ancient woolly mammoth that lived up to 15,000 years ago.

A team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan and an excavator recovered about 20% of the animal’s skeleton this week in Washtenaw County’s Lima Township. Aside from the pelvis, they found the skull and two tusks, along with numerous vertebrae, ribs and both shoulder blades.

“We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it,” Daniel Fisher, the scientist who led the dig, said Friday.

Three boulders the size of basketballs found next to the remains may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond, he said.

Mammoths and mastodons, another elephant-like creature, were common in North America before disappearing around 11,700 years ago. Remains of about 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been discovered in Michigan, Fisher said, although most of the mammoth finds aren’t as complete as the one in Bristle’s field.

Bristle told the Ann Arbor News he bought the property a couple of months ago. He and his friend were digging to make way for a new natural gas line when they found the odd object.

“When my five-year-old grandson came over and saw the pelvis, he just stood there with his jaw wide open and stared. He was in awe,” Bristle said.

The bones will be cleaned and examined by university researchers for cut marks that would indicate human activity, Fisher said. Study of the bones may shed light on when humans arrived in the Americas, a topic of debate among archaeologists.


Farmer finds woolly mammoth bones in Michigan field

James Bristle and a friend were digging in his southern Michigan soybean field when they unearthed what looked like a bent fence post, caked with mud. Instead, it was part of a pelvis from an ancient woolly mammoth that lived up to 15,000 years ago.

A team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan and an excavator recovered about 20 percent of the animal's skeleton this week in Washtenaw County's Lima Township. Aside from the pelvis, they found the skull and two tusks, along with numerous vertebrae, ribs and both shoulder blades. "We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it," Daniel Fisher, the scientist who led the dig, said Friday.

Three boulders the size of basketballs found next to the remains may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond, he said.

Mammoths and mastodons, another elephant-like creature, were common in North America before disappearing around 11,700 years ago. Remains of about 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been discovered in Michigan, Fisher said, although most of the mammoth finds aren't as complete as the one in Bristle's field.

Bristle told the Ann Arbor News he bought the property a couple of months ago. He and his friend were digging to make way for a new natural gas line when they found the odd object.

"When my 5-year-old grandson came over and saw the pelvis, he just stood there with his jaw wide open and stared. He was in awe," Bristle said.

The bones will be cleaned and examined by university researchers for cut marks that would indicate human activity, Fisher said. Study of the bones may shed light on when humans arrived in the Americas, a topic of debate among archaeologists.


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Michigan farmer uncovers mammoth bones in soy field

A Michigan farmer found bones from a woolly mammoth in his soy field this week, the Washington Post reported Friday.

According to the report, Bristle mistook the remains for a dilapidated fence. "We knew it was something that was out of the norm," the article quote him as saying. "My grandson came over to look at it, he's 5-years-old, he was speechless,"

University of Michigan professor Daniel Fisher said that the animal died more than 10,000 years ago. Fisher said that discoveries of mastodons are more common than finding woolly mammoths, which are more closely related to elephants. It is also one of the more intact specimens compared with those found in the surrounding area.

The find may provide evidence of the animal's interaction with humans. While Bristle owns the bones, Fisher hopes to gain further access to them in the hopes of unlocking the mysteries of the extinct creature.


Farmer finds woolly mammoth bones in Michigan field

In this photo taken Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, University of Michigan professor Dan Fisher, right, smiles as he takes a break from leading a team of Michigan students and volunteers as they excavate woolly mammoth bones found on a farm near Chelsea, Mich. (Melanie Maxwell/The Ann Arbor News via AP) LOCAL TELEVISION OUT LOCAL INTERNET OUT MANDATORY CREDIT

LIMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - James Bristle and a friend were digging in his southern Michigan soybean field when they unearthed what looked like a bent fence post, caked with mud. Instead, it was part of a pelvis from an ancient woolly mammoth that lived up to 15,000 years ago.

A team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan and an excavator recovered about 20 percent of the animal's skeleton this week in Washtenaw County's Lima Township. Aside from the pelvis, they found the skull and two tusks, along with numerous vertebrae, ribs and both shoulder blades.

"We think that humans were here and may have butchered and stashed the meat so that they could come back later for it," Daniel Fisher, the scientist who led the dig, said Friday.

Three boulders the size of basketballs found next to the remains may have been used to anchor the carcass in a pond, he said.

Mammoths and mastodons, another elephant-like creature, were common in North America before disappearing around 11,700 years ago. Remains of about 300 mastodons and 30 mammoths have been discovered in Michigan, Fisher said, although most of the mammoth finds aren't as complete as the one in Bristle's field.

Bristle told the Ann Arbor News (http://bit.ly/1VrCj2T ) he bought the property a couple of months ago. He and his friend were digging to make way for a new natural gas line when they found the odd object.

"When my 5-year-old grandson came over and saw the pelvis, he just stood there with his jaw wide open and stared. He was in awe," Bristle said.

The bones will be cleaned and examined by university researchers for cut marks that would indicate human activity, Fisher said. Study of the bones may shed light on when humans arrived in the Americas, a topic of debate among archaeologists.


Farmer digs up woolly mammoth bones in soybean field

Farmers digging in a Michigan field were shocked to discover what turned out to be woolly mammoth bones eight feet under the surface.

Researchers at the University of Michigan excavated the remains of a woolly mammoth in Chelsea on Friday. (Photo: Courtesy of the University of Michigan)

After a full day of digging through a soybean field near Chelsea, Mich., researchers at the University of Michigan confirmed a farmer's fairly unusual discovery: a large set of bones belonging to a woolly mammoth.

The find Thursday afternoon represents one of the more complete sets of woolly mammoth bones to ever be found in the state, said Dan Fisher, a professor at the University of Michigan and the director of the Museum of Paleontology.

"It's a pretty exciting day," James Bollinger, an excavator and local resident who lent his services to the dig, told the Free Press Thursday. "I've been digging for 45 years and I've never dug anything up like that."

The bones were first discovered on Monday, in what amounted to pure accident. Neighbors Trent Satterthwaite and James Bristle, both farmers, were on Bristle's farm on Scio Church Road in Lima Township, working to drain water from part of the field.

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They had dug about 8 feet deep when a wood-like substance started to appear. Pretty soon they realized the wood was actually bone.

"I think we just found a dinosaur or something," Satterthwaite recalled joking with Bristle.

They then contacted the University of Michigan, which referred them to Fisher.

In an unusual twist, Fisher said Bristle gave him one day to dig on his land, because of a tight farming schedule tied to the harvest. Bristle could not be reached for comment Thursday.

So on Thursday morning, a wild one-day digging sprint ensued.

About 15 people from the university arrived with several others showing up to observe. Satterthwaite and a local excavator, James Bollinger, lent their help with some heavy equipment.

Together, they uncovered a surprising 20% or so of the woolly mammoth's skeleton. There was the head and tusks, several ribs, a set of vertebrae, and more.

While there have been about 30 woolly mammoths found in Michigan, only five or fewer have been uncovered so extensively, Fisher said.

"We didn't stop to eat or drink," he added. "It was a hard, hard day of work, but every bit worth it."

This particular mammoth was likely killed by humans 10,000 or 15,000 years ago, then stored in a pond, which was a preservation technique at the time. Many of the missing parts were probably eaten by humans, Fisher said.


Michigan Farmer Unearths Bones of Rare Mammoth Hybrid From Nearly 15,000 Years Ago

The mammoth was likely butchered by early human hunters nearly 15,000 years ago.

Rare Mammoth Hybrid Unearthed by Michigan Farmer

— -- A farmer near Ann Arbor, Michigan, recently unearthed the skull, tusks and other bones of a mammoth possibly butchered by early human hunters nearly 15,000 years ago, according to a paleontologist at the University of Michigan.

Farmer and landowner James Bristle made the discovery on Monday night when he and a friend were digging in one of his wheat fields to install a drainage pipe, according to a news release sent to ABC News by the University of Michigan. Bristle's backhoe had bumped into a 3-foot-long bone, later identified as part of a mammoth pelvis.

Bristle later contacted Daniel Fisher, who teaches at UMich and directs the university's Museum of Paleontology. Fisher told ABC News he went over to the field Wednesday night and confirmed that the bones were from a mammoth that was a rare hybrid between a woolly mammoth and Columbian mammoth that was likely at least 40 years old when it may have been killed 11,700 to 15,000 years ago.


Michigan Farmer Discovers 10,000-Year-Old Woolly Mammoth Skeleton in Soy Field

A farmer in Chelsea, Michigan, made a startling discovery straight out of the Ice Age on Monday while digging in a soy field near the state’s Lima Township.

James Bristle was tunneling into the field to create a life station for a new natural gas line when he unearthed the skeleton of an ancient woolly mammoth, reported Michigan’s Ann Arbor News.

“It was probably a rib bone that came up,” Bristle told the News. “We thought it was a bent fence post. It was covered in mud.”

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The animal’s species was confirmed by teeth found on the site earlier this week, and, with the help of locals and a team of researchers from the University of Michigan, excavation began on Thursday, the News reported. The mammoth’s skull, tusks, vertebrae, a pelvis and shoulder blade pieces were collected.

University of Michigan Professor Dan Fisher, the paleontologist who led the dig, told the News that the mammoth was probably around 40 years old at the time of its death and had lived between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. The creature was likely hunted by humans, who stashed it in a pond for preservation after killing and butchering it.

The team also found stone tool garments and three large boulders which support the idea that the animal was hunted, reported the New York Times.

Only 10 similar sites with such a significant portion of a woolly mammoth skeleton have been found in Michigan in recorded history, Fisher told the News.


Photos: Mammoth Bones Unearthed from Michigan Farm

A Michigan farmer unexpectedly discovered mammoth bones on his property, buried in the soil beneath a wheat field. He gave paleontologists at the University of Michigan a day to excavate the bones, and their fast work uncovered about 20 percent of the beast's bones. The remains are those of an adult male mammoth that likely lived 11,700 to 15,000 years ago, the researchers found. (Image credit: Daryl Marshke | Michigan Photography) [Read the Full Story on the Michigan Mammoth]

A mammoth skull and tusks are lifted from the ground at a farm southwest of Ann Arbor, at an unincorporated site in Washtenaw County, Michigan.

As the mammoth skull and tusks are raised from the pit, paleontology doctoral candidate John Fronimos watches.

Making the news

A crowd of locals watches the excavation at the field in Lima Township.

Ancient tool

University of Michigan graduate student Ashley Lemke and paleontologists Joe El Adli and Daniel Fisher examine a stone flake found near the animal's tusks during the excavation. The flake may be a tool that ancient people used to cut the mammoth.

A piece of the puzzle

El Adli carries a mammoth vertebra during the dig.

Securing the bones

A group harnesses the mammoth bones with straps before hauling them out of the pit. From left to right: Lemke, Earth and environmental sciences undergraduate student Jessica Hicks, Fronimos, Fisher and El Adli.

Removing the bones

Two team members guide the right tusk of the mammoth as the skull is lifted gently from the excavation pit.

Securing the treasure

David Vander Weele, an Earth and environmental sciences undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, oversees the mammoth tusks and skull as they are secured onto a flatbed trailer.

Loading the mammoth

University of Michigan collections manager Adam Rountrey (left), Vander Weele (center) and paleontology doctoral candidate Michael Cherney (right) help load the mammoth skull and tusks onto a flatbed trailer.


FOUND: A Woolly Mammoth in a Michigan Farmer’s Field

Two soybean farmers in eastern Michigan were digging deep into a field, aiming to drain water, when, at about eight feet deep, they hit a substance that looked like wood. As the Detroit Free Press reports, the farmers soon realized they had struck not wood, but bone. 

Was it a dinosaur bone? They called the University of Michigan, who passed on the news to Daniel Fisher, at the school’s Museum of Paleontology. Once on scene, Fisher determined that it wasn’t a dinosaur the farmers had found—it was a mammoth.

Mammoth skull and tusks being hoisted from the excavation pit. (Photo: Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography)

Fisher and his colleague had just one day to uncover the mammoth’s skeleton, because the farmers needed to get on with their work, according to the Free Press. They were able to find a head, tusks, ribs and some vertebrae the missing pieces may have been taken away by humans who possibly killed the creature for food. 

There have been 30 or so other mammoths found in the state, the Free Press reports this one, Fisher told the paper, may be a Jeffersonian mammoth—a hybrid that’s not quite a Woolly mammoth and not quite a Columbian mammoth, but still very large, very impressive, and very much not what you find doing fieldwork every day.


Watch the video: Farmer Digs Up Woolly Mammoth Bones From The Past In His Soy Field