The Mammoth Site recently hosted two terrific groups of student volunteers from Chadron State College in northwestern Nebraska and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota. The students gave us a hand in the bonebed, where recent walkway renovations are making for some exciting changes!
Much of the old wooden and concrete walkway along the southern and eastern edges of the bonebed was removed this January. These walkways had been built directly over top of the sinkhole sediment, and by moving them we have exposed more area for excavation! But before we can jump right in and dig for mammoth bones, we need to clean up, and that is where our student volunteers have been a big help!
We set them to work excavating backfill from on top the sinkhole sediment. Some of the backfill has been in place since the 1970’s, when the Mammoth Site was still open to the air. In those years, field crews had to spend the last week of each excavation season reburying the bones to protect them from rain, snow, and freezing temperatures. The following season, all that backfill would first have to be removed before the diggers could continue excavating for mammoth fossils.
The students collected numerous bone fragments in the backfill, but it is possible more are waiting to be found. All the backfill excavated by our volunteers will be screenwashed this summer in hopes of collecting additional bone fragments and possibly even microfaunal remains!
New walkways are under construction now, and will be ready this spring!