Aucilla mammoth: past - present - future

By Dr. S. David Webb

Important new developments at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville bring the Aucilla River mammoth one giant step closer to its ultimate destiny. On January 29th when Powell Hall, the Florida Museumís new Exhibition and Education Center, opened its doors to the public, Bruce MacFadden, Associate Director for Exhibits, announced that the Aucilla River Mammoth was to occupy the signature site in the central gallery and also that articulation of the skeleton was going out immediately for bid. In earlier plans the construction date was indefinite and its place would have been in the Florida Fossil Hall with first Floridians and other extinct megafauna. The paleontology staff have reviewed and fully tallied every bone that will go into the magnificent mounted mammoth. The skeleton will be the first real mammoth exhibited in the southeastern United States. (Elsewhere in the region there are a handful of mastodons and one mammoth cast).

The story of this mammoth began thirty years ago when Dr. Richard Ohmes guided me down Half-Mile Rise and showed me a wealth of mastodon and mammoth bones, several of which appeared to be articulated sets each representing a single individual. Within the year we had a museum team in the rise supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society. We collected three fairly complete skeletons, but this was by far the best. It was illustrated (in its river bottom repose) in the February 1969 issue of National Geographic Magazine. It came from a freshwater marl deposit in the upper part of Half-Mile Rise and was carbon-dated at about 16,000 years old. This mature male skeleton, which will stand over 12 feet high at the shoulder, is 90 percent complete, with its tan to dark chocolate-colored bones exquisitely preserved in every detail. Erection of the articulated skeleton in its ultimate place of honor will take place by 1999, a mere moment from now in the ageless perspective of the Aucilla Mammoth.