Saturday, March 2, 2013


On February 23, 2013, we attended the excellent exhibit MAMMOTHS AND MASTODONS: TITANS OF THE ICE AGE, at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS). This is a traveling exhibit that originated at the Field Museum in Chicago, and can be seen at the DMNS from February 15 to May 27, 2013. Aside from being a fascinating and well done exhibit on a fascinating subject, the exhibit surprised me by identifying a supposed mammoth or mastodon petroglyph on a boulder under water in Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan.

Carved face of underwater boulder,
Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan.

This petroglyph was located by underwater archaeologist Dr. Mark Holley who was documenting shipwrecks when he found it. The supposed mammoth or mastodon is on one boulder in what he described as “a circular pattern of rocks on the bay floor.” If this image is human produced it must have been made more than 13,000 years ago when enough water was tied up in the Pleistocene glaciers and the site would have been on dry land.

Carved face of underwater boulder - retouched
in photo, Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan.

With no prominent bump on the top of the skull, and from the relatively smooth back approaching the horizontal instead of strongly sloping toward the rear, the animal (if authentic) may be provisionally identified as a mastodon. The animal’s trunk is described as in a curled up position as if it were drinking, and some  vaguely wedge-shaped lines within the body outline are described as representing the protruding end of a fletched dart or spear that a hunter launched at the creature with an atlatl. This leads to the speculative scenario of a hunter concealed at a watering spot, waiting until the creature came to the water to drink and then launching his dart into the prey.

Add this as one more entry on the speculative list of possible, but unproven, proboscidians in North America.


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