Most Remarkable Scientific Discovery Made in Colorado is Discussed at Metro

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Posted Sun, Mar 10, 2013

Dr. Ian Miller speaks on discoveries of one of the largest scientific digs ever made. (Photo By: Stephanie V. Coleman)

ICE AGE: Dr. Ian Miller speaks on discoveries of one of the largest scientific digs ever made. (Photo By Stephanie V. Coleman)

DENVER – Bulldozer operator Jesse Steele, discovered a partial mammoth skeleton in the Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colo.

The year: Oct. 14, 2010.

For the next 10 months, further digging uncovered that the site also contained the bones of a Mastodon, as well as other ice age animals. The project has been named the Snowmastodon Project. Dr. Ian Miller, a co-leader of the project, attended Metropolitan State University of Denver, March 6, to discuss the discovery in more detail. Miller is a curator of paleontology and director of Earth and Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. He said mammoths are commonly found in the front range area of Colorado. In fact, 110 mammoths were found in the past hundred years.

“Mastodons are unusual because they are forest animals, and we’d only found parts of three in Colorado in a hundred years of looking,” Miller said.

Mastodons are part of the elephant family tree, but they’re distant cousins of mammoths, Asian elephants and African elephants.

“They split of thirty some million years ago,” Miller said.

The Snowmastodon Project resulted in the discovery of 6,000 bones after only digging 10 percent of the site. The massive amount of fossils found makes this dig one of the largest scientific excavations. Volunteers were a large part of getting the fossils collected. Miller said the DMNS sent 40 volunteers to the site and shoveled about 8,000 cubic yards of dirt by hand.

In addition to the mammoths and mastodons discovered, bison, camels, tiger salamander and a ground sloth was found. The dig cost $1 million to undergo, all of which were donated funds.

Miller hopes to get the bones on display at some point. For now, they are still focusing on the science of the bones. The fossils not only provide information about which animals were living millions of years ago, but also give information about past climates and how regions in North America has changed. Several teams are currently working on uncovering information about the climate changes to the area.

“This site is totally a mystery,” Miller said.

Although DMNS is not displaying these fossils at this time, they have an exhibit called Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age currently on display until May 27, 2013. Check the DMNS website for updates on the project or follow Dr. Ian Miller on Facebook or Twitter.

More information about the Snowmastodon excavation can be found below:

Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age in the Colorado Rockies is a book written by Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller that discusses the dig further (Photo By: Stephanie V. Coleman).

Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age in the Colorado Rockies is a book written by Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller that discusses the dig further (Photo By: Stephanie V. Coleman).

  • Book: Digging Snowmastodon: Discovering an Ice Age in the Colorado Rockies By: Kirk Johnson and Ian Miller
  • Nova Special on PBS: “Ice Age Death Trap”
  • Contact the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to volunteer: 303 – 370 – 6419

Visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science:

  • All Ages
  • Opened Daily: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Address: 2001 Colorado Blvd. Denver, CO 80205
  • Visitor Prices: Adults: $13, Juniors & Students: $8, Seniors: $10

 

About Stephanie V. Coleman

Stephanie V. Coleman is a creative writing student at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her interests include music, culinary arts, traveling, and sports.

View all posts by Stephanie V. Coleman

10 Responses to “Most Remarkable Scientific Discovery Made in Colorado is Discussed at Metro”

  1. Grace Says:

    really loved this! This story is so relevant and interesting, thank you for writing it!

    Reply

  2. Davy Says:

    Very interesting story. I liked your lead, it really got my intention.

    Reply

  3. Jen Sasser Says:

    Well written story and great use of quotes!

    Reply

  4. J.R. Johnson Says:

    Lots of good info and very well paced.

    Reply

  5. Ted Says:

    Absolutely fascinating. What a great local story. The only thing I would criticize is the discovery date. It throws off your style and comes off as slightly dramatic. But all of the information is fascinating and well organized.

    Reply

  6. A A Says:

    Good story, I like the presentation and the added information(book and documentary). The inclusion of the mastadon rarity as oppossed to the common mammoth was nice as well

    Reply

  7. Stephanie Alderton Says:

    It was very interesting to read about this, and I like the “go boxes” at the end. I did have a slight problem with your headline: it kind of makes it sound like this is the “most remarkable scientific discovery EVER made in Colorado,” and it probably isn’t. But mastodons ARE pretty cool. 🙂

    Reply

  8. Maureen Says:

    great job. well-written and informative.

    Reply

  9. Emily Pennetti Says:

    go box is great! great info too, very interesting on all the bones

    Reply

  10. Adam Says:

    Nice article! Crazy to think that the mastodons were here on the front range when they are forest animals!!

    Reply

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