A mastodon (mastós ‘breast’ + odoús ‘tooth’), are proboscidean beings, that belong to the extinct genus Mammut.
Many animals, from the very large to the odd lived during the ice age. Harlan’s Ground Sloth seems to be one of the most bizarre animals from that era. A mix of large and odd, these large, furry animals are related to modern sloths, armadillos, and anteaters. Unlike its smaller modern cousin, Harlan’s ground sloths could be as tall as modern elephants and as heavy as a small car.
Sheer size was not the only odd part of a Harlan’s ground sloth. These giants were bulky, with short necks, powerful chests, and massive jaws. The sloth also had three claws per hand for digging, grabbing, or defending themselves. Just like armored armadillos today, the sloth had a protective coat of rough, brown fur, with nickel-sized bone plates underneath their skin. Scientists called this the “dermal ossicles” or bone skin
Ground sloths migrated to North America during the ice age. They spent their lives wondering open-grasslands with water sources, like rivers and lakes. Using its stubby snout and sense of smell, the sloth may have found and eat grasses, shrubs, and plants with flowers. The need for water sources may have brought Harlan’s Ground Sloths to New Mexico and southern US during the ice age. Before the sand dunes existed, a giant lake called Lake Otero filled the area. It provided a water source that attracted many ice age animals, including Harlan’s Ground Sloths.
Today on the old dried lakebed of Lake Otero or Alkali Flat, New Mexico, Harlan’s Ground Sloths left clues that they were here. Many fossilized footprints are visible. They had crescent shaped footprints. Their back feet twisted inward when they walked. This made them walk slowly, almost like waddling. These large strong slow moving animals became easy targets for daring predators such as Paleo-Human hunters.
The Giant ground sloth of course does not live today. Around 10,000 years ago, the large ice age animals died out. Scientists still debate why the larger animals disappeared. The Harlan ground sloth is reminder of a time long past however with modern technology maybe one day could be brought back.
Popular and common amongst insect collectors, the peppered moths, are easy to preserve, and maintain after death. How easily though, there populations can adapt to new conditions in times of environmental stress. Before 1850, the moths were speckled light grey, after 1850, peppered moths, started turning darker, almost totally black. Was it evolution through natural selection, or Darwinism? It was no doubt, industrial pollution, in England, mid 19th century, turning lichen on tree trunks black. Many white, (or lighter coloured peppered moths), were easy to identify and thus vulnerable to predators. As more of the dark moths survived, the gene pool shifted toward darker colourations. Similar ‘industrial mechanisms’ were identified all over the world. For about 100 years, dark peppers moths continued to dominate the population. Then, in the 1950s, resulting from stronger anti-pollution legislation, air was cleaner, lichen went lighter, and so began the moths. The colour of the peppered moth definitely shifted in response to environmental factors however it was more multifaceted that thought (migration and birds).
In short, story highlights environmental and neolithic complexities, and reminds us: be careful, simple evolutionary changes, aren’t that easy to trace.
During 1853-54, prolonged drought cause water in alpine lakes to drop 1 foot below lowest recorded levels.
In winter 54’, men began to begin a “land reclamation project.”
They uncovered a lake village.
First of hundreds in alpine Europe.
An enormous amount of building material preserved: remnants of wooden frames, plank floors, wattle and white walls, with thatched roofs.
So much, that dendrochronology, (tree ring dating), provided year by year site histories, firmly identifying the earliest villages on Zurichsee , Bodensee, Wauwilwemoos lakes (more than 5000 years old).
Neolithic villagers, continued to live by the lakes for the next 3 millennia. In fact, the preserved material remains two cultural transitions: from seasonal foraging, to sedentary agriculture, and from stone tools to the use of bronze.
Preservation of organic material from these settlements was extraordinary. Artifacts from almost every aspect of everyday life in Neolithic Europe survived. The lake dwellers relied heavily on wood. Besides using it for there houses, and dugout canoes, they made wooden bowls, spoons, and ladels, chisels, hooks, and knife handles; bows and clubs; and, loom parts. They also used animal bones, teeth, tusks and antlers, to make beds needles, pins, awls, chisels, saws, arrowheads, handles for stone axes, and at least one fish hook. They made chipped and ground stone tools, and at some sites, they made pottery.
The list of plant remains gives some idea of the wealth of remains from these sites. List of plants include: wheat, barley, millet; peas, apples, pears, plums, sloes, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries; dog rose, elder and bilberry; and, caraway seeds, beech nuts, hickory nuts and water chestnuts; Even fava beans, which the villagers may have grown. Rarely preserved on European sites, providing particularly interesting cultural information. Flax and opium poppies were also found at the sites.
Did you know 3/4 of weight of poppy seed is its oil, and that besides its use in bread, and pain relief, raw oil can be used to burn in lamps.
Neolithic Site 32km SW of St. Louis. In upper Mississippi valley, 2.5km west of Mississippi River, at confluence of 4 North American drainage basins (upper Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers). Where 30% of American contiguous land mass is drained.
Mastodon remains were identified, including butchering and human presence.
Laurentide ice sheet appears to have reach its max about 350km to east. By time of occupation (estimate, early neolithic), glacier tied 800km north (present day upper Great Lakes basin). The site was probably situated in mixed deciduous (oak, hickory) forest, mixed with prairie grasses. 127meters above sea level. The sites axis is oriented southwest to northwest, 2300 square meters. There is a 20m high limestone bluff in the north. With unobstructed views of the Mississippi River south east, and rock creek valleys to the south and west.
Founded by French/Creole fur trader, and St. Louis co-founder Pierre Chouteu in 1790s. The earliest known excevations were in 1839, by Albert Koch. Who recovered a American Mastodon (mammut americanum) for display at his St. Louis museum. Numerous others began excavation including businessmen who opened a museum at the site around 1900. And, Smithsonium archaeologists who couldn’t declare what was cultural remains, and introduced there after. Modern era of professional investigation began in 1970s, when government bought, in preparation to convert the mastodon state historic site.
7 discrete strata were identified including extinct and entact large mammals: mastodon, long nosed peccary and Harlans ground sloth. Numerous species of small vertebrates, and a large fire pit with Harlans ground sloth.
Though relatively few artifacts were recovered, apart from mastodon, presence of diverse abundant animal species,(white tail, fish, amphibians, reptiles (turtles, birds, small mammals), suggests site was adaptable to environmental conditions.
Studied 2 centuries, yet little got published. Located in western Smyth county, Virginia. Within Saltville valley about 1.3km south of north branch, Holston river (major drainage system of SW Virginia).
In 1782, Colonel Arther Campbell mentioned bones of an uncommon size in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.
5 identifiable artifacts included: Sandstone knives, a triangular stone, and putative chert tool.
One of the oldest layers contained a “concretion” (putatively bound together by congealed animal fat). Which was probably a mastodon butcher zone.
Outside of this, because of paucity, very little said about human life-way. Other than probably processing the extinct critters, (mastodon, mammoth, and musk ox), Saltville was probably like a puzzle piece to much larger picture.
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