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Latest Research Findings

The Mammoth Site Excavates a Mammoth Skull

Published on August 19, 2015 under Current Research

Removing a skull from the bonebed

Vee's skull before jacketed for removal.  The surrounding bones were jacketed for protection during the removal operation.

Vee’s skull before jacketed for removal. The surrounding bones were jacketed for protection during the removal operation.

This summer, the Mammoth Site team undertook a major operation to remove a Columbian mammoth skull from the bonebed. The skull, which is mostly complete with one tusk intact, was nicknamed “Vee’s Skull” after Vetris Lamb, a longtime Mammoth Site volunteer who excavated in this area of the bonebed.

Work on the project began mid-way through June by preparing the surrounding area for the vigorous process of removal. Several dozen bones around the skull were covered by temporary plaster jackets and bubble wrap to prevent damage from tools, falling sediment, and excavators’ feet.

The skull was protected and supported by multiple layers of burlap and plaster as well as a metal frame. Ropes were used to secure the frame to the overhead bonebed crane.
After the top of the jacket was created, the team dug several tunnels beneath the skull, the longest of which was nearly 30” long. Burlap, plaster, metal bars and chains were put through the tunnels to support the skull from the bottom.

More and more dirt was dug away from under the skull until it broke free from the sediment pedestal and was supported only by the crane. The skull was then slowly flown across the west end of the bonebed to a cart waiting on the walkway.

Crowds watch as the skull is lowered to the walkway with the bonebed crane.

Crowds watch as the skull is lowered to the walkway with the bonebed crane.

Excavation will continue in the area cleared by the skull where several exciting specimens have already been recovered, including a giant short-face bear tooth and several non-mammoth ribs.

The happy team with Vee's Skull after a successful removal. Clockwise from left: Cynthia Lewis-Younger – volunteer, Matt Harrell – Intern, Don Morris – Crew Chief, Jim Mead – Site Director, Derek Jurostovsky – Cataloguer, Biz Storms – Volunteer, Joe Muller – COO/Business Manager, Jenna Palmer – Intern, Lauren Parry – Intern, Willow Nguy – Screenwasher, Monica Bugbee – Preparator, and Justin Wilkins – Bonebed Curator. Many others not pictured!

The happy team with Vee’s Skull after a successful removal. Clockwise from left: Cynthia Lewis-Younger – volunteer, Matt Harrell – Intern, Don Morris – Crew Chief, Jim Mead – Site Director, Derek Jurostovsky – Cataloguer, Biz Storms – Volunteer, Joe Muller – COO/Business Manager, Jenna Palmer – Intern, Lauren Parry – Intern, Willow Nguy – Screenwasher, Monica Bugbee – Preparator, and Justin Wilkins – Bonebed Curator. Many others not pictured!

The skull will eventually be taken to the lab for cleaning and conservation.

Thanks to the many, many people who helped make this project a success!