In Ellis County, Paleontologists Remove A Mammoth Skeleton | KERA News

In Ellis County, Paleontologists Remove A Mammoth Skeleton

Sep 17, 2014

Paleontologists and volunteers went on a big dig on Wednesday in Ellis County. They worked to remove part of a mammoth skeleton from a sand and gravel pit. 

The skeleton is making its way North to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

In May, Marty McEwen was operating an excavator on the family farm when he hit something. He and his son, Ethan Beasley, dug and discovered a six-foot tusk. 

A team of Navarro College staff, students and volunteers spent weeks this summer removing sediment from the bones, using shovels, picks and brushes. 

McEwen's father, Wayne McEwen, donated the skeleton to the Perot. 

Ron Tykoski, a Perot Museum paleontologist, has been working for weeks at the site, about an hour south of Dallas. He's been using toilet paper, plaster, burlap and two-by-fours to create protective field jackets to help the bones arrive intact, museum officials said in a news release. 

The tusks, skull, pelvis area and legs have already been "jacketed." The arm and leg bones have been transported to a museum facility, the Perot says. 

What are they doing?

Tykoski and his team on Wednesday flipped over the final block from the excavation, “a multi-hundred pound block containing the ribs, spine and shoulder blades of the animal,” a news release says. “The team will then cover the newly exposed side with a layer of plaster and burlap to protect the delicate bones, which is the last step in the excavation process before carefully loading up and removing the fossils from the site.”

More about the mammoth

The Perot says the Mammuthus columbi or Columbian mammoth is estimated to be at least 20,000 years old, and possibly even 60,000 years old.

“Navarro College biology professor and paleontologist Tom Vance, the project director for the specimen and an expert in the study of Texas mammoths, speculates it might be a female due to its diminutive size, the length of the tusks and the shape of the pelvic bones,” the Perot says in a news release.

“Vance, who led the early excavation efforts, believes the animal to have been approximately 8-9 feet tall at the shoulder, or similar in size to a modern-day female Asian elephant. He notes that it is small compared to male mammoths from the Pleistocene Epoch, a time interval that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until only about 10,000 years ago.” 

Watch the extraction

Learn more

Learn more about the mammoth extraction on the Perot's website.