ENID, Okla. —
Nearly two dozen Oklahoma State University students are helping excavate the remains of a prehistoric mammoth found near Enid.
The remains were discovered by Access Midstream workers installing a high-pressure natural gas line northwest of Enid. The remains are being moved to an OSU lab where they’re being studied and will be reconstructed.
OSU says researchers believe the mammoth is about 50,000 years old and is not a wooly mammoth — but could be an Imperial Mammoth or Columbia Mammoth. The elephant-like beasts roamed the southern Great Plains during prehistoric times.
Students from the geography, geology and zoology departments are helping with the excavation and are expected to assist in reconstructing the remains.
“We are really fortunate to be involved in excavating such a find, and the mammoth’s fossilized remains are in very good condition for this type of removal and reassembly,” said Dale Lightfoot, professor and head of the geography department at OSU, who witnessed the removal of the mammoth’s skull over the weekend.
Lightfoot credits geography graduate student Tom Cox for getting OSU involved at the dig site. Cox is working on his master’s degree under the advisement of Carlos Cordova, professor in the OSU geography department, and Lee Bement, a scientist with Oklahoma Archaeological Survey and a member of Cox’ graduate committee. Cox, who has received training in geoarchaeology, was offered the opportunity to study the site by Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, the institution called to the site when the mammoth remains were discovered.
“Dr. Lee Bement notified me since this is exactly the type of site I needed for my thesis research,” Cox said. “This is an excellent opportunity to get hands-on experience, and have the chance to gather my own data.”
Cox’s thesis falls within a broader study Cordova is carrying out in the Great Plains. The project seeks to reconstruct the prehistoric habitats of the mammoth and other large beasts. The project also includes the study of modern elephant habitats in southern Africa, which is used as a modern equivalent for understanding the relation mammoths had with their environment. Cox’s thesis research examines the landscape and the soils of these sites to assess a relative date of the sites.
“We also want to know why this animal is where it is, and possibly how it may have perished,” Cox said. “We believe that mammoths found higher in the landscape are older than those found in current flood basins. We also want to try and reconstruct the environment at the time of death, and the depositional forces that preserved it.”
Depending on the condition of the remains, the group may seek funding for reassembly with the goal of a display on campus.