A team of archaeologists unearthed the massive fossil on January 25, found right below the school's football stadium.
Oregon State University archaeologists didn’t have to travel very far to unearth the most recently discovered mammoth remains. According to a report from Live Science, a construction crew currently working on renovating and expanding the school’s Valley Football Center discovered the fossilized remains of the prehistoric beast while clearing land just to the north of the Reser Stadium.
Construction workers first noticed a massive femur bone, which gave way to a veritable ice age burial ground. Archaeologists discovered the remains of what they believe to be a bison and an ancient horse or camel among the mammoth bones as they excavated the site.
According to Loren Davis, an associate professor of anthropology at Oregon State University, “There are quite a few bones, and dozens of pieces. Some of the bones are not in very good shape, but some are actually quite well preserved.”
It remains unclear at this point what species of mammoth the bones belong to. It could be a Columbian mammoth, Mammuthus columbi, or a wooly mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius. While the range of wooly mammoths typically extended farther north, researchers believe there is an equal chance the fossil could belong to either species.
Davis and his team of researchers hope to use radiocarbon dating to determine the exact age of the mammoth. The method is accurate to about 50,000 years, though other radioactive dating methods exist that can more accurately determine the age of ancient organic materials.
There were no human remnants left behind with the bones, although scientists around the world have been collecting evidence that our ancestors once relied on the massive beasts. A recently uncovered fossil in Siberia, for example, showed butchering injuries from ancient humans. While scientists don’t believe humans hunted the beasts, they provided a massive cache of meat that could be salvaged once they died.
“It just goes to show that there’s a whole world of the past that exists under the ground, and it’s so neat that we could actually find it here at Reser stadium,” said Davis.
An OSU press release describing the discovery and excavation can be found here.