A Michigan contractor was digging as usual from the seat of his excavator when he spotted an enormous mastodon bone. Daniel LaPoint Jr. jumped off of his vehicle to examine the bone, because he said it looked prehistoric. He thought he unearthed a dinosaur bone. Though a mastodon isn’t considered a dinosaur, the massive mammals from the Ice Age are certainly prehistoric. They date back further than 10,000 years and are the ancient relatives of elephants.
LaPoint and his neighbor Eric Witzke had found themselves with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before them. In their neighborhood in the small Michigan town of Bellevue, they were suddenly in the midst of their very own prehistoric dig. Witzke called finding the mastodon skeleton “pure luck,” according to the Lansing State Journal.
“Just boom. There you go,” the Bellevue man said of the opportunity to dig up the long-extinct mastodon’s remains.
They waited four days to call the experts. During those four days, they revelled in their dig.
The amateur paleontologists took their time enjoying the experience of their mastodon dig, and then took some more time to share the experience with the community.
After the men dug up the bones, they weren’t quite ready to turn them over. They took the mastodon bones over to Olivet Community Schools and let the middle school children get a hands-on experience that the men believed the kids would never have in a museum.
“Once these things go to the museum and get crated up, you’re not going to get to touch them again. It’s over with and I was that kid who wanted to touch that thing on the other side of the glass. All the kids got to pick them up and hold them. Some kids, it was life-changing for them. To change one kid’s life because they got to touch it, I think, is an incredible opportunity.”
— Green Life Story (@GreenLifeStory) January 14, 2015
Mastodon expert Daniel Fisher is a curator at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology. His current research “focuses on the paleobiology and extinction of mastodons and mammoths,” according to the museum’s website, so the mastodon bones are important specimens to Fisher. He said that mastodon bones have been found in Michigan before. Generally though, Fisher said, people will find a lone mastodon tooth or tusk. The Bellevue mastodon was an exciting find and there are probably more bones to be found on the Babcock Rd property in Bellevue.
Very soon, the mastodon skeleton will be donated to the museum where Fisher works. Most of the bones will join other mastodon bones including an assembled skeleton that is on display.
After letting scientists in on their discovery, the contractor and his neighbor were given more details. Fisher said that the mastodon was most likely a 37-year-old male and he was most likely eaten by early Native American humans. Fisher said there was evidence of tool marks that could indicate that humans butchered the animal for food. He aged the bones at up to 14,000-years old, though a more exact age will be pinpointed when the mastodon bones finally make it to the museum.
Earlier this year, Inquisitr reported on another prehistoric find in Michigan. Remnants of prehistoric native American hunting grounds were found deep below the surface of Lake Huron.
LaPoint said that he and Witzke will keep a couple of the prehistoric bones as souvenirs of the day they excavated a mastodon.
[Photo credit: Peggy LaPoint via Huffington Post]