Thursday, August 27, 2009

South Dakota: Mammoth Site

Our third day in South Dakota we toured The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota. I had never heard of this before, but it turned out to be very cool. About 26,000 years ago this site was a giant sinkhole, filled with water. Apparently mammoths would slide in while attempting to get water or eat the nice greens on the edge of the hole and would be unable to climb out. Over many years they were all buried in the mud and muck at the bottom of the hole, and preserved for thousands of years.

The site is a working paleontological dig site, and we even saw workers scraping away with their trowels while we were there. They've left everything in situ, and are slowly working their way down.

One of the coolest things was the mammoth footprints they've found in the upper layers from when the sinkhole became a giant mudhole and mammoths stopped becoming stuck there and simply walked right over it.

See? Can you see the footprints? They've found several relatively complete skeletons, some of which are still in situ.

Funny thing, they have not yet found evidence of a female mammoth's skeleton at the site. Now, obviously you have to find certain parts of the skeleton to determine the sex of the mammoth, so it's highly likely that there are female mammoths there, they just can't be identified as such.

It was a very cool stop, and we really liked the little town of Hot Springs as well. I definitely recommend it to anyone else traveling through South Dakota.

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