have always taken second place to the dinosaurs in museums and in
children’s coloring books and text books. Fossils and a few teeth
are about all we have of the huge mammoths that came our way from
Eurasia about two million years ago. (Or far older than the crazy
uncle in your attic.)
A note from Congressman Chet Edwards (D-Waco) says that soon Texas
holiday-makers can visit a national monument for mammoths. Last month
the U.S. Congressional committee approved the Waco Mammoth Site to
become a national monument.
Mr. Edwards said the Establishment Act of 2009 was passed with little
to no resistance. This was the biggest hurdle so far in the ten-year
struggle to protect the site of a mammoth herd's death just north
This is the world's largest known concentration of prehistoric mammoths
perishing in the same event.
Mastodon in Red River Museum
we know there were three species of mammoths that lived in our country
at the end of the last Ice Age. (That was a while before our land
became the United States.) These were the Columbian mammoth, Jefferson's
mammoth, and the Woolly mammoth.
Mammoths are in same family with elephants and mastodons (mastodons
differ from elephants and mammoths in their teeth structure). Mammoths
are closely related to our elephants, especially Indian or Asiatic
elephants. The mommoths stood 10 to 12 feet and weighed around six
to eight tons.
Those in the know tell us that approximately 11,000 years ago all
species of mammoths became extinct. They passed from the earthly scene
about the same time (given a 100,000 years or so) as the well-known
saber-tooth cats and mastodons. The horse also became extinct in North
America but survived in other places.
The question is why did they become extinct? To be honest no one knows
how or why they disappeared. Research has developed several ideas
as to what happened to these huge beasts. The mammoths were here long
before the Clovis people (thought to be the first people to cross
from Asia to the North American continent, some 14,000 years ago).
As hunters the Clovis people no doubt contributed to the extinction.
This also led to an environmental collapse.
Back in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin discovered a bone protruding
on a creek bank outside of Waco.
By 1990, fifteen mammoths had been identified. More scratching around
identified more mammoths, a camel, and a young saber-tooth cat's tooth.
I am not a student of such things; but I found it interesting and
thought that other Texans might also. This news of a central Texas
location to see the fossils and learn more about them caught my eye.
The U.S. House and Senate still have to vote final approval of the
Waco mammoth site, but were impressed that $3.5 million had already
been raised locally. Both the City of Waco and Baylor University are
partners in the effort.
The Waco Mammoth Site, if it becomes a national monument, puts it
in the same category as the Statue of Liberty and General George Washington's
© Britt Towery
Along the Way with Britt,August
24, 2009 Column
(For history, photos and partners of the endeavor see: www.wacomammoth.org/)
Escapes, in its
purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks
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and vintage or recent photos, please contact