GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Pieces of a mastodon skeleton that was unearthed last summer near the Kent County border will soon go on display at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
The bones, now known as the “Clapp Family Mastodon,” will make their public debut as a part of the GRPM’s new exhibit called “Ice Age: Michigan’s Frozen Secrets.” The exhibit opens on Saturday.
The majority of the Clapp Family Mastodon is still going through the drying process, but a selection of bones will be on display. They will join “a fascinating array of majestic creatures from the Pleistocene period.” The museum recently purchased a set of artifacts from a once-popular traveling exhibit, including 63 fossils and casts.
The mastodon discovery made national headlines last summer after a road crew made the first find in August. The crew was replacing a culvert along 22 Mile Road near Kent City when they came across a 3-foot femur. Researchers at the University of Michigan later confirmed that the remains belonged to a mastodon.
Researchers determined the mastodon was between 9 and 11 years old when it died about 11,000 years ago.
Investigators do not believe the Clapp Family Mastodon was found in “life position,” meaning it appears the mastodon’s body (or parts of it) was moved after death. Archaeologists uncovered many leg and foot bones and several ribs but did not find the animal’s skull or tusks.
Mastodons were once a common sight worldwide. Scientists believe they first appeared in the Miocene Epoch, anywhere from 23 million to 2.6 million years ago. They lived in some form through many eras, including ice ages, even crossing paths with Paleoindian groups. Researchers believe a warming climate and pressure from human hunters led to the mastodon’s extinction around 10,000 years ago.
The Clapp Family Mastodon is not the GRPM’s first mastodon. The facility is already home to two other partial sets of mastodon remains, including “Smitty” — a mastodon discovered in Grandville in 1985.