PIERRE, S.D. - When developer Phil Anderson set out to develop a plat of land on the southwest edge of Hot Springs in 1974, he had no idea he was about to find one of South Dakota's greatest fossil treasures.
During the excavation on what was to become a new housing development, one of the bulldozers hit a seven-foot-long mammoth tusk surrounded by animal bones, and the Mammoth Site was born. Dr. Larry Agenbroad, then a professor at Northern Arizona University, was asked to come to the site to examine the fossils.
It quickly became clear that the 26,000-year-old sinkhole was of great scientific value. Anderson sold the ground at cost to the newly-created Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota, Inc., a non-profit organization formed to care for the site. Dr. Agenbroad stayed on, and is still the site’s director.
Today the Mammoth Site is the world’s largest Columbian mammoth exhibit, as well as a world-renowned research center. Scientists estimate they have excavated approximately half of the site, thus far finding the remains of 55 Columbian and woolly mammoths. Scientists have also found fossils of other Ice Age animals such as giant short-faced bear, llama, wolf, prairie dog and fish.
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Photo: A volunteer worker brushes away debris from an excavated mammoth fossil.
Information for this release was obtained from the Mammoth Site.