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Snowmass Excavation Reveals Prehistoric Critters

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 8


Imagine the surprise of a construction crew that uncovered a mastodon tooth at a reservoir just outside of Snowmass, Colorado. Not exactly cowboys and Indians revealed by turquoise trinkets and bullets, more like mammoths and mastodons revealed in tusks, femurs, sockets, teeth, and other bone shards. This is a huge deal here in the Roaring Fork Valley which includes the towns of Aspen, Snowmass, Basalt, El Jebel, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Locals are excited and curious about the find.

I am one of those locals, and gladly took the advantage of viewing the moist, not fossilized bones before the Denver Museum of Nature and Science curatorial staff took over. The bones were housed at the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District office. There really is nothing like seeing history, prehistoric matter dug up. At the very least, it proves that there were some rather large critters cruising the terrain a very long time ago (10,000 years plus). None the less, I waited in line with many other locals to walk through, view, learn more about the Ziegler Reservoir, and take photos.


mammoth bones
mammoth femur n socket
tooth (32108)

It was a big mammoth weighing up to 10 tons and standing 13 feet tall. It's skeleton was found and later a mastodon tooth was found. As of Monday, November 8th, 2010, "Dig crews from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science discovered a second Columbian Mammoth at the Ziegler Reservoir Ice Age fossil dig site today." That is the quote from the ongoing reports on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science site. More tusks were also found that may be confirmed to belong to a 3rd mammoth.

Mammoths and mastodons differ mainly in size and teeth. Mammoths were larger than mastodons and they both had the same amount of teeth in their respective mouths. However, mastodons had more teeth in their jaw. Both had teeth for herbivores, yet mastodons teeth were more suited to twigs, branches, roots and leaves, rather than grass. Also, the mammoths survived longer. Both are considered prehistoric elephants hunted to extinction by humans. Yikes, it would be quite a hunt to kill and eat one of those giants.

The archaeological crew has to put up with lots of mud at the site. That's not all, as we have a winter snowstorm warning in the valley. The curator overseeing the dig, Dr. Ian Miller, told the Aspen Daily News that 6 inches of snow was okay, and possibly up to 12. It will definitely be a dramatic undertaking in the mountains. Evidently the Snowmass mammoths find is at the highest elevation found so far in the United States. A true Rocky Mountain high!

I'm awaiting a film to be developed with hot celebs playing various characters, and a twist of fate to make the story even more sensational. Perhaps an evil critter from the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District pond could come crawling out from under the murky waters and attack the scientists at the dig. The only way to save the residents is to clone the mammoth remains and create a herd of them to kill the critter from the pond.

I digress. It must be the altitude and weather change. The dig is real, and ongoing, as are my photos!



Nov 9, 2010 10:52pm
Great article you really did your research for this one. Thumbs up!
Nov 10, 2010 9:51pm
Thanks! The research is easy when a dig is basically in my own backyard. Lots going on here!
Nov 10, 2010 11:37am
Fascinating information! I'm so glad you shared it with us!
Nov 10, 2010 9:53pm
Yes, it's not an everyday occurrence. Awesome find.
Nov 14, 2010 4:44pm
Great article..sounds like an interesting time in the mts. Bets on how many are stacked around?
Nov 15, 2010 10:35am
The dig is done until Spring, but it is called a "prehistoric zoo," so many critters have been found.
Apr 16, 2011 9:20pm
Wow so interesting :)In Australia they have found new life after an iceberg split http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/04/16/3193416.htm
Apr 17, 2011 11:31am
Thank you for that! I followed the link and watched the video - it's so interesting what's around us that we don't see.
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