National Geographic : 1962 Jun
lakes filled present-day deserts in Utah, Nevada, and Cali fornia. The land abounded in game: giant bison, lumbering mammoths, sturdy horses, camels, clumsy ground sloths as well as many of today's species. Our mammoth itself was a huge beast with a rough coat of shaggy, reddish-brown hair. It was 17 or 18 years old, stood 11 feet at the shoulder, and weighed about five tons! Our knowledge of the men is less complete. Their fore bears had migrated from Asia, no one knows exactly when. They existed in pitifully small numbers, and probably re sembled American Indians of historic times. Possibly they were a little more rugged. Their society may have focused on a tiny band of a dozen or a score-several families bound together by ties of blood kinship. Life was uncertain, es pecially as to food. With only stone, bone, and wooden tools, our early men limited their hunting to ambushes, drives, or careful, patient stalking.* To them, the mammoth was awindfall, a veritable moun tain of meat. It meant the difference between mere survival and plenty for weeks, perhaps even months. Clues to an Ancient Drama Although we can never reconstruct the mammoth hunt precisely, the evidence points to an ambush, followed by a drive of the panic-stricken animal into the muck. Despite the presence of stone knives, we found no stone spear points in the bog. It is possible that our hunters had only fire hardened wood points, effective only at close range on a weakened beast trapped in the mud. The mammoth's skull shows two crushed areas and three vertebral spines show fractures, according to Dr. Paul O. McGrew, University of Wyoming staff paleontologist. Only boulders could have done this, and certainly they were at hand. The severed neck joint and the knives and stone ham mers-all found near the main skeleton-attest to the feast. A chance encounter between a dragline operator's scoop and a mammoth's ribs, relics of Ice Age America, thus has led to important discoveries about our continent and its prehistoric inhabitants. The fascinating tale of our mammoth discovery would never have unfolded without the cooperation and generous support of the University of Wyoming and the National Geographic Society, and also the work of our many stu dents, whose names only lack of space prevents us from listing. It is by such vision and hard work, with an occa sional touch of luck thrown in, that archeologists slowly unlock the secrets of our past. THE END *See "Ice Age Man, the First American," by Thomas R. Henry, NATION AL GEOGRAPHIC, December, 1955. Huge handlebar tusks distinguish the Columbian mam moth. Kin to the present-day Indian elephant, this specimen towered 11 feet at the shoulder. Fractured skull and broken vertebral spines indicate that hunters attacked it with boul ders. Dr. Paul O. McGrew (left) and Dr. George Agogino prepare the skeleton for exhibition at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. 836 KODACHROMEBY DAVID S. BOYER, NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC STAFF © N.G.S.