When construction workers found mastodon bones on a southern Indiana farm, it was certainly not an ordinary work day for them. The laborers, who were installing sewer lines on the Schepman family farm were never really expecting to find mastodon bones. The rare discovery of mastodon bones included one-third of a tusk, parts of a skull and a jawbone with teeth. With radio radiocarbon dating, archaeologists will be able to know how old the mastodon bones are.
Mastodons, which are a genus of the Mammut family, were remotely related to elephants. They roamed the woodlands of North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Piocene period. Unfortunately, they became extinct 10,000 to 11,000 years ago due to hunting.
Mastodons, who had plenty of hair like woolly mammoths, had a vegetarian diet just like elephants. They searched for their food in forests. According to archaeological studies, their diet mainly consisted of coniferous twigs. The adult females and young formed ties in groups called mixed herds. Females were smaller than males. They had a physique similar to today’s Asian elephants.
The first remains of a Mammut tooth were found in the small town of Claverack, New York in 1705. Georges Cuvier, who was a French anatomist, named these prehistoric creatures mastodons in 1806.
Even though mastodons became extinct from North America about 10,500 years ago, archaeologists know how they actually looked like by studying their fossils and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. Mastodon bones, as well as many other fossils, are perpetually on display in many museums across the United States and worldwide.
The Schepman family will donate the mastodon bones to the Indiana State Museum. They want to leave this scientific legacy to their community. As for the construction workers, they will never forget the day that they found mastodon fossils and destiny turned them into archaeologists.