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 Texas : Features : Columns : Along the Way with Britt

Waco Mammoth Site
Nearing National Monument Status

by Britt Towery
Mammoths have always taken second place to the dinosaurs in museums and in children’s coloring books and text books. Fossils and a few teeth are about all we have of the huge mammoths that came our way from Eurasia about two million years ago. (Or far older than the crazy uncle in your attic.)

A note from Congressman Chet Edwards (D-Waco) says that soon Texas holiday-makers can visit a national monument for mammoths. Last month the U.S. Congressional committee approved the Waco Mammoth Site to become a national monument. 

Mr. Edwards said the Establishment Act of 2009 was passed with little to no resistance. This was the biggest hurdle so far in the ten-year struggle to protect the site of a mammoth herd's death just north of Waco. This is the world's largest known concentration of prehistoric mammoths perishing in the same event.
Mastodon - Red River Museum
Not a Mammoth
Mastodon in Red River Museum. TE photo
From encyclopedias, we know there were three species of mammoths that lived in our country at the end of the last Ice Age. (That was a while before our land became the United States.) These were the Columbian mammoth, Jefferson's mammoth, and the Woolly mammoth.

Mammoths are in same family with elephants and mastodons (mastodons differ from elephants and mammoths in their teeth structure). Mammoths are closely related to our elephants, especially Indian or Asiatic elephants. The mommoths stood 10 to 12 feet and weighed around six to eight tons.

Those in the know tell us that approximately 11,000 years ago all species of mammoths became extinct. They passed from the earthly scene about the same time (given a 100,000 years or so) as the well-known saber-tooth cats and mastodons. The horse also became extinct in North America but survived in other places.

The question is why did they become extinct? To be honest no one knows how or why they disappeared. Research has developed several ideas as to what happened to these huge beasts. The mammoths were here long before the Clovis people (thought to be the first people to cross from Asia to the North American continent, some 14,000  years ago). As hunters the Clovis people no doubt contributed to the extinction. This also led to an environmental collapse.

Back in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin discovered a bone protruding on a creek bank outside of Waco. By 1990, fifteen mammoths had been identified. More scratching around identified more mammoths, a camel, and a young saber-tooth cat's tooth.

I am not a student of such things; but I found it interesting and thought that other Texans might also. This news of a central Texas location to see the fossils and learn more about them caught my eye.

The U.S. House and Senate still have to vote final approval of the Waco mammoth site, but were impressed that $3.5 million had already been raised locally. Both the City of Waco and Baylor University are partners in the effort.

The Waco Mammoth Site, if it becomes a national monument, puts it in the same category as the Statue of Liberty and General George Washington's birthplace.


Copyright Britt Towery
Along the Way with Britt
, August 24, 2009 Column
Email: bet@suddenlink.net
(For history, photos and partners of the endeavor see: www.wacomammoth.org/)

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