Discovering the Hot Springs Mammoth Site - 1974
The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs South Dakota is situated over and around a rich concentration of fossilized mammals. In this location some 26 thousand years ago, a substantial number of animals died after becoming trapped in a steep-sided pond, or sinkhole. Over time, the sinkhole filled with dirt and rock, which covered and to some extent preserved the animals' bones.
In June of 1974, a man using heavy machinery to clear and level ground for construction of an apartment building unearthed what he knew were old bones. In this film clip from the late 1970's, George Hanson describes the find.
This is what the site looked like when the bones were discovered.
When Hanson brought home a bucket full of bones after work that June evening, his son Dan looked at them and had a good idea that they were mammoth bones. Dan Hanson had taken a couple of paleontology classes at Chadron University in Nebraska.
Dan Hanson contaced his paleontology instructor about the find. Dr. Larry Agenbroad came to Hot Springs and determined that there were six mammoths on the site. This was enough to stall the apartment project and secure the site for potential future study. Dr. Agenbroad and a team of students returned in the summer of 1975 to begin more extensive work on the site.
By 1979, the study group knew that they had a major find containing far more than the six mammoths they'd identified five yeras before.
A dedicated group of Hot Springs community leaders and residents managed to acquire the land and establish what would become The Mammoth Site of Hot Springs, South Dakota Inc.. The site continues to grow and scientists continue to unearth new discoveries from the distant past.
This SDPB "Landscapes of South Dakota" clip shows what the Mammoth Site looks like today.
For Teachers: Activity idea is available at SDPB's Digital Learning Library.
For more information about the site, including photos, visitors' info, and site history, please visit the Hot Springs Mammoth Site Inc., home page.