Denver Museum of Nature & Science Crew Begins Excavation at Snowmass Dig Site

Scientists Will Recover Bones and Study Other Evidence of Ancient Ecosystem at the Site

Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from Snowmass: Tuesday, November 2, 2010

View photos from the excavation site on Flickr.

Note to Reporters and Editors: Every afternoon, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science will issue an update about the fossil excavation taking place at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village. In addition to this e-mail, watch for another e-mail with links to the still images shot today, and a third e-mail that will allow you to download video from the dig site.  The e-mail about the video may come late in the day.  Thank you for your patience as we work to perfect our distribution system over the next couple days. 

Today: After a briefing this morning from Dr. Steve Holen, curator of archaeology, Denver Museum of Nature & Science field crews began excavating at Ziegler Reservoir. Using hand tools and archaeological techniques supplemented by a small backhoe, they opened up four of the sites that have produced fossil bone over the last week. 

The first site is the juvenile Columbian mammoth discovered on October 14. This dig area is covered by a tent. Scientists staked out a grid above the bones to guide them in their excavation. The second site was where a large mastodon was discovered on October 27. The third site is located where a pair of tusks was found near the margin of the reservoir, and the fourth site is a newly discovered occurrence of bone. 

Over the course of this first full day of excavation, Dr. Holen and Dr. Ian Miller, curator of paleontology and chair of the Earth Science Department, determined the order of sites to be excavated and will deploy teams to those sites in the coming days. The field effort will focus not only on recovering the mammoth and mastodon bones, but also on recovering a full assessment of the paleoecology of the site where the animals lived and died. This will involve sampling the sediment, as well as fossils of plants, invertebrates such as insects and clams, and a variety of microscopic fossils. The team will also use the excavation to better understand the geology of the site and how the sediments were deposited.   

Also today, Museum president and CEO George Sparks and conservator Jude Southward returned to Denver with five tusks and the lower jaw of the juvenile mammoth to begin the delicate process of preserving the bones. More members of the museum team will be arriving in Snowmass tomorrow as the race against winter continues.

Media Availability: Dr. Steve Holen and Dr. Ian Miller will be available for phone interviews late today by appointment. 

For additional information about the excavation, interview clips, video clips and still images from the site, please check the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's home page and press page. 


About the Denver Museum of Nature & Science The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain Region's leading resource for informal science education. A variety of engaging exhibits, discussions and activities help Museum visitors celebrate and understand the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth and the universe. The Museum is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO, 80205.  To learn more about the Museum, check, or call 303-370-6000.

Many of the Museum's educational programs and exhibits are made possible in part by generous funding from the citizens of the seven-county metro area through the Scientific & Cultural Facilities District.

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