“A woolly mammoth is being dug up at the Bristle farm near you. Could you get pictures and details?”
That was the question I got the morning of October 1 from Lisa Allmendinger, the journalist who runs our local news website Chelsea Update. How do you say no to a startling — and likely once in a lifetime — question like that? You don’t! I certainly didn’t.
The story is widely known by now, but here’s the brief overview: Jim Bristle and Trent Satterthwaite were digging in a field when they found an odd object they first thought was an old fence post. When they realized they were finding something a bit unusual, they made a call that brought Daniel Fisher from the University of Michigan to the farm. They started to excavate the mammoth, and when Lisa got word of the dig, I got the irresistible inquiry that took me to the Bristle farm.
Before we get into the photos, here are links to all the Chelsea Update stories on the mammoth:
Possible Woolly Mammoth found on Lima Township farm
Woolly Mammoth photo gallery by Burrill Strong
Not a usual Sunday afternoon for Lima Township farmers who found Woolly Mammoth bones
Lima Township farmers spend Sunday afternoon talking about Woolly Mammoth
Woolly Mammoth artifacts cleaned before they head to U-M Museum of Paleontology
A few of my photos also appeared in the Daily Mail.
Okay, on to the full set of photos!
The skull was just becoming visible early in the afternoon.
At that moment they were taking a photo; the sticks are there to provide scale.
As they were working to uncover the skull, they were also recovering a number of other bones.
They tagged each bone as it came out of the pit.
It was a muddy dig for Fisher and his crew.
Everything was well-documented.
Excitement grew as the skull and tusks became more and more visible.
In the above photo, the excavator is (carefully!) expanding the pit so they could work on uncovering the other tusk.
When they had the skull and tusks uncovered, they began working to lift the whole thing out of the pit.
The word “awesome” has had its meaning diluted over the years, but in its formal sense I think it’s the word that best fits the moments that followed. It was a genuinely awesome event to witness. I was late for another event, but there was no way I was going to leave before they brought up the skull.
Once all the bones were loaded on the trailer, they were moved across the road to a barn on the Bristle farm.
On Sunday, Chelsea Update was invited back to the farm to see the bones. We weren’t the only ones there.
Family, friends, neighbors, and other locals were stopping by to see the bones. They were also being visited by total strangers who had seen the news (which spread not just nationally but internationally!) and had found their way to the farm.
There were a lot of pictures taken that day!
Satterthwaite was the one who was doing the digging when they found the bones. Here he is with the first bone he uncovered.
And here are Satterthwaite and Bristle.
This is the top of a tooth:
And this is a side view with the root:
Chelsea Update received another invitation back to the farm on Tuesday when Fisher and his crew prepared the bones for their trip to the university. Tuesday’s work drew another crowd of curious spectators, but this time it was a bovine crowd.
While Fisher worked on cataloging and preparing the rest of the bones, two other gentlemen cleaned the mud off the skull.
The cattle kept a close eye on the work.
In fact, when channel 7 showed up, one tried to get an interview.
When they had the skull cleaned off, they took a few minutes to see (and photograph) what they could see.
The farm dog kept himself busy and, remarkably, did not try to run off with any of the bones. Not even once!
Across the road, the site of the historic discovery was ready for the drainage project to restart.
To make transportation easier, they removed the tusks from the skull. How do you remove tusks from a mammoth skull? Apparently you just pull. It’s kind of like prehistoric Tinkertoys.
Fisher reached into the open end of the tusk to collect what was inside.
It’s all important.
One tusk down, one to go.
It was an exciting few days for the Chelsea area, but life has returned to normal. The bones are at the university for further study, the drainage project is back on track, and the farmers are back to farming their fields.
Well, life has returned to normal except for one thing: now we’re all wondering what else might be underneath our feet just waiting to be discovered.