The beast lay buried for more than 11,000 years. But in three short years since the behemoth bones were unearthed, the Huntington Mammoth has lumbered steadily back to life.
Completion of latex and fiberglass molds of the prehistoric skeleton should be complete within two weeks, after which University of Utah researchers can begin piecing the facsimile back together for public display."The next phase is to cast a replica of the bones and then assemble and mount them. We hope that by end of year we will be well into the mounting stage," said Frank DeCourten, assistant director and curator of geology at the Utah Muse um of Natural History.
The mammoth was discovered in 1988 by construction crews in the mountains above Huntington. The skeleton has been dated to 11,300 years ago and it remains one of the best Columbian mammoth specimens ever found. Consequently, it remains the subject of intense scientific scrutiny.
With the arrival of the mammoth skull in March, the entire skeleton is now at the Museum of Natural History on the University of Utah campus. Preparators John Akens and Ray Davis have been working almost a year on the project, funded by the U.S. Forest Service.
The next phase of the project will be a full skeletal mount of the mammoth cast from the molds produced at the museum. The replica will be erected in the Janke Kolff Fossil Mammal Exhibit.
The display will be the first public display of the mammoth and will replace a slightly smaller mastodon skeleton currently on display. Another replica of the mammoth will eventually be displayed at the new College of Eastern Utah's Prehistoric Museum in Price.
The recently completed Price museum will also house the original mammoth bones in a 10,000 square-foot laboratory. "We're working on a lot of dinosaur bones, but because of the intense public interest in the mammoth it has a higher priority," said museum director Don Burge.