In a spot where modern humans now gather to watch college football, prehistoric beasts once came to die.
During a construction project to expand Reser Stadium at Oregon State University, the bones of a 10,000-year-old mammoth and other ice age mammals were found underneath the end zone, in a spot that will become the locker room for the football team.
“Maybe the archaeologist can tell you if it’s good luck,” OSU Deputy Athletics Director Mark Massari told the Corvallis Gazette-Times.
A bison and some kind of camel or horse were also found in a hole 10 feet deep, according to the college. Construction work on the expansion at Reser began when the fall football season ended and is scheduled to finish by the start of the upcoming season.
But for the time being, all construction at the historic spot is at a standstill — but continuing elsewhere in Reser Stadium — and the grave is being treated as a paleontological site. It’s closed off to the public.
Crews found the bones on Monday while digging the north end of Reser Stadium. The lucky worker who made the discovery had dug down 10 feet when he spotted a femur bone. The contractor called a halt to all work immediately and called Loren Davis, an anthropology professor at OSU, to come take a look, Oregon Live reported.
What he found was remarkable — the remains of not just a mammoth but other animals in an area that he thinks was a bog or marsh.
Ten thousand years ago, long before a nearby Fred Meyer and Cabela’s outdoor gear emporium was built, the traffic-choked streets, like Southwest Nyberg Street, was a prehistoric ice age trail for mammoths.
And they came to what is now Reser Stadium, which could’ve been a watering hole, or a place where the mammoth and others wandered to lie down and die, explained OSU spokesman Steve Clark.
“Animals who were sick would often go to a body of water and die there, so it’s not unusual to find a group of bones like this,” Davis added. “We had all of these types of animals in the Willamette Valley back then.”
Although finding the remains of an ancient mammoth under a football stadium is indeed an unusual discovery, that someone uncovered a mammoth underneath the ground in this part of Oregon isn’t odd at all. During the ice age, this part of the state — called the Willamette Valley — was absolutely teeming with the giant beasts, who roamed the land by the thousands.
Davis said that the mammoth and other bones aren’t in the best of shape but that some “quite well preserved.” There are “quite a few” bones and “dozens of pieces.”
While construction continues on a different section, Davis and his students will get to work building a clearer picture of ice age-era Willamette Valley. The remains will be soaked in water to preserve them, and eventually, some will be sent away for carbon dating to determine their exact age.
Meanwhile, the professor and his students will comb through a large pile of dirt dug from the site in search of more ancient mammals.
Because the discovery didn’t include any human remains or artifacts, the site of the discovery isn’t protected and the college has no regulations in place to determine what will happen to the bones.
“It just goes to show there’s a whole world of the past that exists underground,” Davis said. “It’s so neat we could find it here at Reser Stadium. As you’re watching a football game, you can think, beneath your feet, lie the bodies of extinct animals that relate to the past.”
[Image via AuntSpray/Shutterstock]