More than 26,000 years ago, large Columbian and woolly mammoths were trapped and died in a spring-fed pond near what is now the southwest edge of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
For centuries the bones lay buried, until discovered by chance in 1974 during excavating for a housing development, when earth moving equipment exposed South Dakota’s greatest fossil treasure.
Fortunately, through the work of local citizens, the Mammoth Site was preserved. Today it is the world’s largest Columbian mammoth exhibit, and a world-renown research center for Pleistocene studies.
From humble beginnings a world-class museum grew.
Now enclosed and protected by a climate controlled building, the sinkhole and the in-situ exhibit of mammoth bones attracts visitors year round. The bones are displayed as they were discovered, in the now dry pond sediments for an “in-situ” exhibit. Walkways allow visitors a close-up view of the fossils. To date, 61 mammoths have been identified, along with the remains of a giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish, and numerous other plant and invertebrate fossils.
The importance to science.
The Mammoth Site, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, provides the worldwide scientific community with: a large comparative collection of mammoth remains, Ice Age vertebrates and invertebrates, and 26,000 year old environmental data. This information is the basis for investigations, exhibits, and educational programs at the Mammoth Site. In fact, the Site’s methods of research, interpretation, and exhibits are studied for implementation around the world.
The “Visiting Scientist” Program
Dr. Larry Agenbroad was appointed Mammoth Site Principal Investigator in 1974 and, with his guidance, the Mammoth Site has sponsored a “Visiting Scientist” program in which a researcher is invited to study at the site during the month of July.
Landowner, Phil Anderson (center of photo) along with contracted earthmover Porky Hansen (standing), examine the first mammoth teeth along with Dan Hansen.
Columbian mammoth tooth.
Early days of digging proved the value of the discovery...there could be the remains of up to 100 mammoths along with fossils of other Ice Age animals. Pictured 1978: Dr. Larry Agenbroad (front row center with hat) with his digging crew.
Visiting professionals have included: Dr. Adriana Torres (Mexico), Dr. Laura Luzi (Italy), world renowned mammoth researcher Dick Mol (Netherlands), Dr. Adrian Lister (England), Dr. Gennady Baryshnikov (Russia), Dr. Dan Fisher (USA), and Dr. Ralf-Deitrich Kahlke (Germany). As a slight departure natural history illustrator, Carl Dennis Buell (NY) was invited for a two week period during the 1998 Field Season. Through Buell’s study of osteology, he was able to artfully “flesh-out” features of the Mammoth Site’s giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) and the three of the site’s Columbian mammoths. Dr. Alexei Tikhonov a zoologist from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia, was the Visiting Scientist during the dig season July of 2001. While at the site, Dr. Alexei Tikhonov and Dr. Larry Agenbroad collaborated on a “soon-to-be-publication” comparing osteology of the woolly and Columbian mammoth. Alexei is a member of three professional bodies, two of which are involved exclusively with mammoths— as Scientific Secretary of the Russian Academy of Science’s Mammoth Committee, and as the Russian “Mammuthus” Program Coordinator. The “Mammuthus” program is affiliated with Discovery Channel’s “Raising the Mammoth” and “Land of the Mammoth” productions.
Our Visitors Say It Best…
“The Mammoth Site is not just a window into the past—it’s as close to being a true time machine as you’ll find, with some of the best ice-age fossils on the planet on permanent display.”
Division of Vertebrate Zoology,
American Museum of Natural History, New York City
“The students examined fossil and non-fossil examples then made their own fossil imprints. The students had great fun and loved the activity.”
Savage Branch Library
Howard County, MD
“We used the Kindergarten through 5th grade kits for an evening program and presentation. The parents were very impressed and the teachers loved the completeness of the lesson plans. They were easy to work with also during class time.”
Meeker Elementary School District,