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Mammoth Discovery Offers Students A Rare Opportunity To Identify Extinct Animal Bones

It might be the best classroom assignment professor Loren Davis’ students will ever get.

On Friday, Davis directed his anthropology students to dig through a pile of soil excavated from the school’s football field, where workers recently discovered the remains of an ancient mammoth.

They spent the afternoon searching for extinct animal bones and fragments and learning how to identify them.

Anthropology student Annie-Rose Eaton said it's the first time she's done any excavating.

"This is so exciting,” she said. “I just think its so fascinating to be able to find part of history and just kind of go back in time and see how things work from just the bones."

The expansion of OSU's football stadium took an exciting turn on Monday when an excavator came across a 4-foot-long femur while digging under the north end zone. The space will eventually hold the team's new locker rooms and meeting spaces. But for several days this week, it was archaeological dig site.

The initial discovery turned up thousands of bones and fragments, including the bones from a mammoth, bison and some kind of camel or horse. But not all of the dirt from the area has been examined and thoroughly excavated.

A large pile of dirt from the site was removed and set aside for what became a unique learning experience for dozens of anthropology students.

Davis said their understanding of what human life was like in the Willamette Valley thousands of years ago wil be enhanced by what they can learn from the remains of the prehistoric creatures that also inhabited this part of Oregon.

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<p>Oregon State University graduate student Sarah Skinner (left) and professor Loren Davis examine prehistoric mammal remains found on campus in Corvallis, Oregon.</p>
<p>Tahria Sheather</p> /
<p>Oregon State University graduate student Sarah Skinner (left) and professor Loren Davis examine prehistoric mammal remains found on campus in Corvallis, Oregon.</p>
<p>Students sifting through soil in search of bone fragments of prehistoric animals whose remains have been discovered under the end zone of the Reser Stadium football field.</p>
<p>Tahria Sheather</p> /
<p>Students sifting through soil in search of bone fragments of prehistoric animals whose remains have been discovered under the end zone of the Reser Stadium football field.</p>