A mammoth skull was unearthed at a construction site in Oklahoma. According to reports, the massive skull was discovered by a bulldozer operator, who was working in a sand pit near an old riverbed. Although the cause of the animal’s death is unknown, archaeologists and geographers will study the mammoth skull in an attempt to determine its age, cause of death, and eating habits.
Oklahoma Archaeological Survey spokesman Leland Bement said the mammoth was likely from the Pleistocene epoch — which was between 11,700 and 1.8 million years ago. Scientists also confirmed the animal is a Columbian mammoth, which were plentiful throughout the region during Pleistocene times.
— Mysterious Universe (@mysteriousuniv) April 1, 2016
Unlike the woolly mammoth, Columbian mammoths were not covered in thick fur and, therefore, were more likely to live in what is now the United States.
As reported by LiveScience, Columbian mammoths were also much larger than woolly mammoths and arrived on the continent hundreds of thousands of years earlier.
Oklahoma State University geographer Carlos Cordova said he and his colleagues will examine the mammoth’s teeth to learn more about the extinct animals’ diet and lifestyle. Doctoral student Tom Cox will also examine the mammoth skull to assist in his study of mammoth migratory patterns within Oklahoma.
It is unclear how the mammoth died. However, the scientists did not find any tools near the skull — which could indicate the animal was hunted and killed.
Discovery reports hunting may have greatly contributed to the mammoths’ eventual extinction.
The last known colony of mammoths lived on Russia’s Wrangel Island and died between 4,000 and 1,700 B.C. Although the specific cause of their demise is unknown, scientists believe “final extinction was caused by a relatively sudden, rather than gradual, change in the mammoths’ environment.”
— Live Science (@LiveScience) March 29, 2016
Climate change, human interference, lack of food, and loss of habitat are all possible causes for the mammoths’ extinction. However, it is also possible that they succumbed to dangerous bacteria or disease.
Although the mammoth skull found in Oklahoma will not be on display, enthusiasts will have a chance to see another mammoth skull in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.
In November, 1860, a group of farmers, who belonged to a Christian religious sect called the Pleasant Hill Shakers, discovered some unusually large bones while digging a drainage ditch. As they realized the bones were unique, the Shakers displayed them at a local carpenter’s shop.
In the weeks following their initial discovery, the Pleasant Hill Shakers discovered even more bones, including a massive skull.
“… they came on the head of one of the animals, but they could not get it up; when it was exposed to the atmosphere it would crumble to pieces … it was 3 feet between the eyes. The tusks were 9 inches in diameter, the length was not exactly known, though over 7 feet; we found a great many pieces of bones, but no whole ones.”
Shaker Village Sky reports it is unclear whether the bones were from a mastodon or a mammoth. However, the skull is widely believed to belong to a mammoth.
The Pleasant Hill Shakers eventually donated the bones and the skull to a local girls school called Daughters College. When the school closed, the relics were passed along to other educational institutions.
Beginning April 1, the mammoth bones and skull will be displayed at Shaker Village in a special exhibit titled “Those Large Bones: The Shaker Mammoth.”
Although the mammoth skull found in Oklahoma will not be on display at this time, scientists are excited about the discovery and the information they will learn from the bones.
[Image via Beatrissa/Shutterstock]