Institute of Science Offers Public Viewing of Ice Age Mastodon!

Cranbrook Institute of Science will offer two public viewings of the cleaning and preservation of the fossilized bones of a mastodon discovered earlier this summer near the town of Otter Lake in northwest Lapeer County. Prep labs will be open to the public July 20 and July 30, 1-4pm each day. The viewings are free with admission to the Institute of Science.

Among the bones recovered by the Institute’s archeologist and geologist are most of both of the innominate bones (hips), an ulna (lower front leg bone) and a proximal phalange (toe bone). The fossils were unearthed during a pond dredging on private property. Initial analysis indicates a not yet fully grown American Mastodon (Mammut americanum). The bones were preserved in lake and bog sediments and are likely about 10,500 to 13,000 C-14 years old.

“Museum Boot Camp” campers ages 11-14 will lead the conservation efforts on July 20 as part of their Institute of Science Summer Explorer Camp experience studying all aspects of running a science museum. Institute staff and volunteers will oversee the July 30 conservation work. Institute Director and archeologist Dr. Michael Stafford or Geologist John Zawiskie will be on-hand to discuss recovery efforts and to describe the geological history of the find site at both events. In addition, the rarely seen bones of the Raphuun Mastodon, collected in Lapeer County by an Institute field party in 1965 and part of the Institute’s collection, will be on display to give the public a “before and after” look at fossil conservation.

The extinct American Mastodon were large-tusked shaggy mammals that lived between about 3.7 million and 10 thousand years ago. Distant relatives of modern elephants, mastodons were browsing herd animals about 10 feet high at the shoulder.