200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 34: “Ice Age Discovery ”

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photo of archaeologists examining artifacts
Edgar B. Howard and John Lambert Cotter examine Clovis points from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico. Bones from a fossil mammoth appear in the background.

Ice Age Discovery

In 1932 a road construction crew encountered large quantities of bison and mammoth bones while looking for gravel near Clovis, New Mexico. Alerted to the news, Academy Curator of Geology and Paleontology Edgar B. Howard quickly investigated. In 1936, Howard, other Academy staff, and experts from the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the California Institute of Technology began excavation at the Blackwater Draw site.

The site contained fossils from a variety of extinct Pleistocene mammals, including horses, camels, bison, and mammoths. The site also contained several pointy stone and bone tools that were from the same time period as the mammoth bones, thus making Blackwater Draw the first site to demonstrate that Paleo-Indians (the earliest Native Americans) lived alongside Ice Age mammals. The tools, called Clovis points, were found with the large mammal remains. The discovery of these points in extinct species led some researchers to propose that Clovis big-game hunters contributed to the mass extinction of several large mammals at the end of the Pleistocene.

Are your small children interested in digging for fossils? Bring them to the Big Dig, located on the Mezzanine in Dinosaur Hall!

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