10,000-Year-Old Beast Found Along Ohio River in Indiana

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Poking through cold southern Indiana mud for the delicate 10,000-year-old remains of an elephant-like creature was a rare thrill for a group of scientists who struck pay dirt.

“It was rainy and this was a fresh construction site, so you had awful mud. It was an awful place to be working,” said Donald Cochran of the Ball State University anthropology department, who was among the scientists and volunteers who spent four days unearthing the remains of a prehistoric mammoth.

“But it was a very exciting find,” he said.

The nearly complete skeleton, buried 10 feet deep, was discovered by a bulldozer operator preparing the way for a resort along the Ohio River.


A call to the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis piqued the interest of Ron Richards, the museum’s curator of paleobiology. He immediately organized the excavating team.

What they found--the remains of a shaggy, 10-foot-tall creature believed to be a Jefferson mammoth--will keep researchers busy for months, Richards says.

“The most unusual thing was to have an investigative team go into action when it was found,” Richards said. “These things were found for years and years, and someone would just take a shovel and dig it up.”

Studying the mammoth where it was found will yield unusual information, he said. For example, screening soil around the mammoth revealed the teeth of a heather vole, a mouse-like creature now found in Canada.

Volunteers and Department of Natural Resources employees filled out the crew of about a dozen people who worked to unearth the skeleton in January.

“It was like digging through wet pie crust,” Richards said.

The bones that were in good shape will be cleaned, preserved and put on display at the museum, probably in about a year, he said.


“A lot of the bones were very disintegrated,” he said. “It was hundreds of little pieces stuck together with mud.”

It was rare to find such a complete skeleton, he said, although hundreds of mammoth teeth and bones have been found in Indiana.

The find was disappointing in some ways, however.

Cochran was looking for signs that humans might have come in contact with the mammoth. He came up empty.

“There’s been no good human association with them found east of the Mississippi River,” he said.

The paleo-Indians wandered the area at the same time, and their counterparts in the west are known to have hunted mammoths. No evidence that mammoths were hunted has been found in the East, he said.

But the investigation isn’t over. Richards said the property owner, Two Rivers Inc., is allowing scientists the time they need to continue their work, expected to be finished by April.