Denver Museum of Nature & Science Excavation Crews to Complete Field Operations on Ice Age Fossil Dig Site Near Snowmass Village

Focus Now Shifts to the Lab for Analysis of Specimens and Samples

The Final Denver Museum of Nature & Science Field Report from Snowmass Village: Friday, November 12, 2010

Note to Reporters and Editors: This will be the last daily Field Report from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science's Ice Age fossil excavation at Ziegler Reservoir near Snowmass Village, Colorado. The Museum's "Mastodon Bureau" will close up shop this weekend and head back to Denver. Periodic updates on this project will continue from there. 

Producing these updates each day from Snowmass Village has been a true team effort. Special thanks to the people on (and in) the ground-Dr. Kirk Johnson, Dr. Ian Miller, Dr. Steve Holen, photographers Rick Wicker and Heather Rousseau, and videographers Dave Baysinger and Chris Tribble-for their innumerable contributions to the success of this experiment in science communication.

This Weekend: There are just a couple things left to do for Denver Museum of Nature & Science dig crews at the Ziegler Reservoir Ice Age fossil site before they close down operations for the winter. 

After taking detailed photos yesterday, teams working on the first Columbian mammoth discovered at the site will create sketches of the fossils in the ground before removing the bones for conservation and transport back to Denver. Museum scientists decided to take an archaeological approach to the excavation of these bones, just in case there was any evidence of human association with the bones. None has been found so far. The fossils remaining in the ground have been cleared of sediment, revealing a complex, jumbled assortment of vertebrae, ribs, a tusk and the pelvis of the juvenile female mammoth.

Over the past several weeks, crews have excavated the bones of:

  • 2 Columbian mammoths
  • 3 Ice Age bison
  • 1 Jefferson ground sloth (this species has never been found before in Colorado)
  • 5 American mastodon
  • 1 small salamander
  • 1 Ice Age deer

Fossils at the Ziegler Reservoir site also include:

  • Beaver chewed-wood
  • Small invertebrates including snails and insects
  • Many different types of plant fossils including fir and spruce cones, grasses, seeds, pollen, and wood

Though the work at the dig site is winding down, this project is only in its early stages. Next, Museum scientists, with the assistance of outside experts, will being the long work of preserving specimens, studying them, analyzing samples, and writing their findings for publication in scientific journals. 

As the analysis unfolds in the coming months, the Museum will continue to provide updates about these spectacular discoveries. Also, Museum crews hope to return to the dig site in May to continue excavating and conducting scientific research on the site. Over the winter, Museum scientists will work with the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District to map out a plan for the spring. 

Media Availability: Dr. Ian Miller 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 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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