Farmers James Bristle and neighbor Trent Satterthwaite had the biggest surprise of their life when they accidentally dug up a massive woolly mammoth.
According to Fox News, James Bristle and a friend were digging in his southern Michigan soybean field when they unearthed what looked like a bent fence post, caked with mud. Instead, it was part of a pelvis from an ancient woolly mammoth that lived up to 15,000 years ago.
A team of paleontologists from the University of Michigan and an excavator recovered about 20 percent of the animal’s skeleton this week in Washtenaw County’s Lima Township. Aside from the pelvis, they found the skull and two tusks, along with numerous vertebrae, ribs and both shoulder blades.
They had already dug 8 feet deep when a wood-like structure started to appear. At first it was they thought it was just a “bent post” but pretty soon they’ve realized that they’ve stumbled upon an amazing discovery.
We didn’t know what it was, but we knew it was certainly a lot bigger than a cow bone,” Bristle said.
Believing the strange object may have been a dinosaur bone, the farmer contacted the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, located just 10 miles away from his field.
Curious locals gathered throughout the day as news of the discovery spread. By sunset, without a break to eat or drink, the crew had excavated approximately 20 percent of the bones of the prehistoric elephant-like creature. Using zip lines attached to a backhoe, the paleontologists carefully hoisted the mammoth’s gigantic skull and tusks and placed it on a flatbed trailer along with the skeleton’s vertebrae, ribs, pelvis and shoulder blades before filling in the pit.
Mammoths roamed North America until their disappearance about 11,700 years ago, and the remains of only 30 of the massive prehistoric animals have previously been found in Michigan. Fisher told the Detroit Free Press, however, that no more than five of those skeletons have been uncovered as extensively as the one they found in Bristle’s field.
The mammoth’s remains still need to be dated, but Fisher said the bones are from an adult male that likely lived between 11,700 and 15,000 years ago and was in its 40s when it died. The paleontologist said the specimen was a Jeffersonian mammoth—a hybrid between a woolly mammoth and a Columbian mammoth named for founding father Thomas Jefferson, who had a keen interest in paleontology.
Bristle has agreed to donate the mammoth’s bones to the University of Michigan for further study.