Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Going To See the Elephant

The news is everywhere, science blogs and NYT and the sort of science journalists who find something hot to write about in each week's Science Magazine. And the local papers, including the weekly Sequim Gazette, are going wild.

Did I know we had a mastodon? No. Did I know Sequim has a museum with a natural history exhibit? No. But boy I sure now know that we are in the forefront of paleontological news, with a confirmed pre-Clovis hunting site. Boy howdy.

Beastie was excavated in the 70s, from the Manis farm in the Happy Valley area of Sequim. But the paleontological establishment told the researcher who did the work that it couldn't have been as early as he said. And science filed his findings in limbo, though the Manis Mastodon remained in the museum and on the mental maps of local people who have been around a long time.

The news is that it has been retested and firmly dated to 13,800 years ago; and the truly lovely part of the story is that the guy with way-modern dating technology worked with the original researcher, Dr. Carl Gustafson, lo these 35 years later, and he appears as one of the authors of the new paper. Take that, Clovis-first true believers.

The root story, in Science: (1). Lots of other stories: (2)(3)(4). The critter is not nearly as large as I imagined. Lovely size chart at New York State Museum's web site.

Keeping the museum's hours in mind, to plan a visit to the elephant ancestor's bones.

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