State Museum to Exhibit 12,000-Year-Old Skeletal Remains of a Pennsylvania Mastodon

Jan 21, 2010, 12:03 ET from Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The skeleton of a 12,000-year-old Pennsylvania Mastodon is the star attraction of an exhibit that will open Jan. 24 at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Historical and Museum Commission said today.

The mastodon is displayed as part of "Tusks! Ice Age Mammoths and Mastodons," an exhibit that tells the story of mammoths and mastodons, extinct relatives of modern elephants who roamed much of North America until the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago.  

"It is the most complete specimen from Pennsylvania and one of the most complete on the East Coast," said Robert Sullivan, the museum's senior curator for paleontology and geology. "It is 90 percent complete. It ranks as one of the most important mastodon specimens known from North America."

On July 5, 1968, two employees of Lakeside Peat Humus Company in Marshalls Creek, Monroe County, accidentally snagged the mastodon's skull while they were running a bucket through a peat bog as part of routine mining operations. A month later, museum staff and volunteers excavated the specimen from the peat bog.

The bones were found separated, scattered in the mud. Only a few bones were missing, such as some ribs, toe bones, and both tusks. Other bones were damaged including skull, some vertebrae, both pelvic bones and both shoulder blades. The damaged bones have been restored, and missing bones have been replaced, using casts from a similar-size mastodon.

The mastodon stood nine feet tall at the shoulders, weighed an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 pounds, survived on a diet of twigs and leaves and lived near wooded areas.

For years, only half of the mastodon's skeleton was mounted in a display at the State Museum. This full skeletal display will allow visitors to view the entire animal from all sides to get a true sense of its size and beauty. The remount was completed by the Pittsburgh studio of Phil Fraley Productions, Inc., one of the leading firms in the world for such work.

Created by the Florida Museum of Natural History, the Tusks! exhibit features more than 80 specimens that include extinct proboscideans and some of their Ice Age neighbors, such as carnivores, horses, giant ground sloth and giant armadillos.  Colorful interpretive banners feature artists' reconstructions of the animals and photo murals of scientists at work.

After the Tusks! exhibition closes in May, the mastodon will be moved to a permanent home in the State Museum's Hall of Geology, currently under renovation. In addition to the dramatically remounted mastodon, additional fossil specimens and new and updated dioramas will create a richer experience for visitors. The gallery is expected to reopen in the fall.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania, located at 300 North Street, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.  General admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children/senior citizens. Individuals who need special assistance should call (717) 787-6778 or the Pennsylvania TDD relay service at (800) 654-5984.

For more information, visit www.statemuseumpa.org, or call 717-787-6778.

Media contact: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639

SOURCE Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission



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