A History of the Waco Mammoth Site
In Pursuit of a National Monument
Imprint: 1845 Books
Sales Date: 2023-02-15
134 Pages, 7.00 x 10.00 x 0.40 in
- Published: March 2023
For Professors: Exam Copies
In paleontology there are certain encounters considered breakthroughs. Occasionally a unique event is discovered that permanently impacts our interpretation of an entire species.
The Waco Mammoth Site represents one such landmark moment. At the edge of the city, mammoth skeletons were unearthed from twelve feet of overburden, a find that has since been called one of the most important ancient proboscidean sites in the world. The discovery was made in 1978 by Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin with subsequent excavations by David Lintz, who along with volunteers from Baylor University’s Strecker Museum conducted the initial investigations. George Naryshkin, in his senior thesis for Baylor University’s Department of Geology, identified the five partial skeletons as Mammuthus columbi. Calvin Smith became the director of the Strecker Museum in 1983 and reopened the excavations in 1984. During the next few years, the site was expanded and eighteen new discoveries unearthed.
Work was halted at the site from 1981 until Calvin Smith became the director of the Strecker Museum in 1983 and reopened the excavations in 1984. By the end of that year there were a total of sixteen specimens exposed in a cluster resembling a herd dying from a singular event. A news conference held by Baylor’s Department of Public Relations received an enormous amount of interest that resulted in international coverage. Many colleagues contacted the museum wanting to see the site. Among them was Dr. Gary Haynes, who had done extensive research on both extinct and modern elephants through the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution. When he visited the site, he confirmed that it contained a nursery herd that succumbed to a single event, making it the largest such accumulation known to the scientific community.
During the next few years, the site was expanded and new discoveries unearthed: a forty-five-year-old female trying to extricate a juvenile out of the mud flow, as well as the herd bull with a juvenile on top of his tusks, a first in prehistoric mammoth behavior.
In 2015, after thirty-seven years of preservation and perseverance—and a whole lot of work and support from numerous individuals, especially volunteer Mr. Ralph Vinson, as well as many other organizations and entities—and at the proposal of the National Park Service, the site was federally recognized as the Waco Mammoth National Monument.
Foreword, by Charlie Walter
1 The Land, the Environment, and Proboscideans through Time
2 Mammoths, Mastodons, and Early Explorations
3 To Clone or Not to Clone
4 The Initial Discovery and Beginning Excavations
5 Introductions and Surprises
6 What Lies Ahead?
7 The Next Step
A History of the Waco Mammoth Site will be an important volume for decades to come as it provides a remarkable story of the perseverance by scientists, governments, and benefactors alike that led to its eventual anointment as a National Monument. The book also serves as a foundation for future geological and paleontological research because it provides the basis for placing the plethora of artifacts in their proper context. Smith states that it is on the mammoths’ shoulders he stands, but it is on his shoulders and his early colleagues’ that we stand for them having so meticulously excavated, documented, and stored the thousands of materials from a site so large that it took years to complete—and with limited resources in hand. To think of that fateful day that a few large bones were discovered by locals in a cut bank to its eventual recognition to National Monument is the most remarkable of stories.~Lee Nordt, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Baylor University
The Waco Mammoth site is an outstandingly rich paleontological discovery—a unique fossil assemblage that so perfectly preserved the remains of a Columbian mammoth family group which died together. Mammoths are most iconic Ice Age animals in the world, and the scientific importance of the Waco site has been fittingly recognized by its admission to the National Park Service as a National Monument. The permanent protection of this national treasure is an inspiring story of how scientists, university and city administrators, and state and national politicians pulled together to conserve and study this important site.~Gary Haynes, Foundation Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of Nevada, Reno