Preliminary Radiocarbon Testing Indicates Lowest Levels of Dig
Site are More than 43,500 Years Old
Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from
Snowmass Village: Thursday, November 11, 2010
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, Colorado. 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.
Today: Excavation crews from the Denver Museum of
Nature & Science are racing to wrap up work on the Ice Age
fossil dig site at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village as
winter weather moves in. If all goes well, work at the site should
be completed for the season in the next few days.
Today, Museum photographer Rick Wicker is working with the dig
crews excavating the original Columbian mammoth fossil discovered
on October 14. Wicker is carefully photographing the bone bed so a
three-dimensional visualization of the original position of the
fossils can be created on a computer. He will also take photos as
each bone is removed from the pile so scientists in the lab can
understand exactly where every bone was located while in the
After they are washed in the conservation lab, scientists will
closely inspect the mammoth fossils to determine how the animal
died, and what happened to it after it died.
Also today, excavation crews are working fast to clear a new bone
bed that was exposed yesterday afternoon after they removed a
seven-foot American mastodon tusk from the ground. Thus far, crews
have recovered fossils from an American mastodon, an Ice Age
bison, and an Ice Age deer. The real find in the pile is one of the
smallest pieces recovered-a well-preserved sloth tooth.
Museum scientists also received the results of the first
radiocarbon tests this morning. Samples taken from a piece of wood
found next to an American mastodon skull in the lowest layer of the
dig site are "radiocarbon dead," meaning that there is so little
radioactive carbon 14 left in the specimen that it is no longer
measurable. This is evidence that the lowest layers of the
excavation site are more than 43,500 years old. Additional testing
and analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey may provide more answers
to the specific age of the layers in the fossil site.
Media Availability: Dr. Ian Miller, Dr. Steve
Holen and Dr. Kirk Johnson, the Museum's chief curator and Vice
President of Research and Collections 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
About the Denver Museum of Nature &
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 www.dmns.org, 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