April 27, 1998
Continuing until May 15, researchers from the Center for Indigenous Research will be excavating an extinct mammoth at the Dry Gulch Site, west of Ruidoso, New Mexico. The remains are most likely those of a Columbian mammoth, a close relative to the Woolly mammoth. Columbian mammoths ranged over much of what is now the southern United States and Mexico up until the end of the last Ice Age, when they became extinct. Radiocarbon dates from sediments just above the Dry Gulch mammoth indicate it died between about 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. Researchers hope to determine whether the mammoth was killed by humans, or became mired in an ancient cienaga and starved to death.
Working with the archaeologists from CIR will be students involved in at-risk youth programs from El Paso and southern New Mexico. These youths will get a chance to experience what it is like to excavate an archaeological site, in addition to helping out at the field laboratory that will be set up at the project camp. Students from the Ruidoso and surrounding school districts will be able to participate in guided tours of the site while the excavation is underway.
As part of the dig, daily images of the excavation will be taken with a digital camera and uploaded, along with accompanying text, onto the Virtual Mammoth pages of the CIR Web site. Anyone in the world will be able to log on and follow the progress of the dig, as well as e-mail questions to researchers in the field.
As part of the Virtual Mammoth project, an online mammoth curriculum will be available which can be downloaded and used in the classroom. The curriculum will provide a synthetic review of mammoths and archaeology in the context of the current project.