Mammoth Bones Evidences Ancient Man in Wisconsin 11,000 B.C.

By Mary Sutherland

Burlington, Wisconsin

Copyright September, 2006

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     When La Crosse brewing company G. Heileman advertised that Old Style Beer was brewed in "God's Country," they actually believed this to be true! Their belief of based of 1886, Rev. David Van Slyke conclusions that mankind's first footsteps on this earthwere in an area not too far from La Crosse, Wisconsin. Theologian-minister- researcher, Van Slyke , whose extensive biblical analysis of Genesis fixed the exact spot of theGarden of Eden to be in Galesville, Wisconsin, less than 20 miles north of La Crosse. Approximately 250 miles from La Crosse, Prehistoric mammoth and mastodon bones were unearthed in the marshes and fields of Kenosha County . This find put Kenosha County , which is less than 30 miles from Burlington, Wisconsin, on the map as one of ‘the most important’ archaeological digs in North America! Many of these bones have been dated before the end of the last Ice Age, some 13,000 years ago or approximately 11,000 B.C. (The Kennewick Man, found in Kennewick, Washington, in 1993, was only determined by radiocarbon dating, to have been approximately 9,000 years old.) According to scientist David Overstreet , who had traveled to sites around the country, "Wisconsin's stuff is as fascinating as anywhere else on the planet," he says. "It's one of the reasons I stayed here."

     In the Kenosha Public Museum stands the skeletal remains of a mammoth, poised on all fours with menacing curved tusks protruding from its head. Below the remains is a mock up of the bones as they were found. The Kenosha Museum’s curator, Mr. Daniel J. Joyce informed us that tools were found below the pelvis and that the bones were stacked, noting ;" only humans would have stacked bones."

     There are over 30 accidental finds of mammoths and mastodons just in Kenosha County. In 1930, bones of mammoths and mastodons were uncovered at some Kenosha sites , of which an amateur archaeologist made a sketch map of their locations. In 1964, mammoth bones were also unearthed by a machine used to lay drain tiles in farm fields. The 1964 site was dubbed the Schaefer Dig .These archeological digs, so far, have been concentrating on a six- to seven-mile radius of the original find.

     It was only in the early 1990s that it was discovered that these giant bones had cut marks on them made by ancient man. This came about due to Mr. Joyce, having dispatched a local archaeologist to help catalog mammoth and mastodon bones, stored at the Kenosha County Historical Museum. Joyce recalled, that when he was looking at the bones, he saw cut marks - gashes in the bones that indicated this mammoth had been butchered by humans.

     In the summers of 1992 and 1993, Overstreet and Joyce conducted digs at Schaefer. Within three days, they found what they were looking for. Their discovery was spread across the pages of the Chicago Tribune. "All of a sudden, this poor farmer has people driving through to look at this mammoth," says Overstreet. "... He was very close to throwing us off the property."

     As the digging continued, John Hebior, a farmer across the road, walked to the site with something to show the scientists. "Here, this is from my field," and he handed the team more mammoth bones. They returned to the Hebior site in 1994 and discovered that this mammoth also had been butchered, bringing the tally to four known butchering sites in Kenosha County.

     The bones found were well preserved and the cut marks were easy to identify. Joyce reasoned this in the fact that, "More than 12,000 years ago, Kenosha County was 30 percent marshes, lakes and rivers . Virtually all the animals found were associated with water in some way. Because marshes allow very little oxygen to penetrate the soil, the layers of sediment that can preserve animals and plants remain much longer." Joyce and Overstreet were able to take spruce twigs from the Kenosha sites that were more than 12,000 years old, cut them open and look at the wood inside; they looked as if they had fallen from the tree just days ago.

     To analyze the markings on the bones, Overstreet and Joyce called in expert Eileen Johnson, curator of anthropology at Texas Tech University. Johnson concluded that two different human tools were used to butcher the prehistoric animals, one for cutting and the other for shaving the meat from the bone.

     From the Kenosha sites, Overstreet and Joyce were able to extract collagen material directly from the bones and distill it to the amino acids that could only come from the bones. Using the latest form of radiocarbon dating - accelerator mass spectrometry - they measured consistent dates that are accurate within 40 years, far more accurate than the earlier radiocarbon dating a decade or two before. Radiocarbon dating of mammoth bones from the Schaefer dig indicated the site went back 12,500 years. But radiocarbon dating of one bone from the Mud Lake site went back even farther, to 13,500, which was more than 2,000 years before Clovis and the theoretical Bering crossing.

     According to Overstreet, the number of human remains in the Americas, dating back 9,000 years or longer can be counted on one hand. that date back 9,000 years or longer can be counted on one hand.Skeletal fragments from only two bodies have been found in Wisconsin of which bothe were cremated.

     "We believe that their was a westward movement by people who were adapted to the lake edge-ice front environments," says Stanford. According to Overstreet, people lived for a long period on the edge of the North American glacier, hunting mammoths and mastodons. The physical evidence at the Kenosha sites shows the ancient people were living right on the edge of the ice sheet.

     Copies of original black and white photos of the attempt by Mr. Fred Becker to locate and excavate the Fenske site Fenske Mastodon Site June 26, 1919, The Kenosha Evening News reported the finding of a mastodon site in Somers Township, Kenosha County. According to the report, " J. R. Maurer, the station agent of the Northwestern Railroad and his work crew on the previous day (June 25) were in the process of digging a sewer line under the railroad tracks near Bain Station approximately one mile north of the Burlington Road. The work crew unearthed a large femur bone and several additional bones. Mr. Maurer stated that the bones were located " just a few feet under the surface " and were in an excellent state of preservation. Mr. Maurer removed the femur and a vertebra that was estimated as being 12 inches across, and brought them to the office of the Kenosha Evening News. The size of femur measured 49 inches in length and 25 inches in circumference and weighed approximately 75 pounds (most likely due to its water content). This bone is now on display at the new Kenosha Public Museum.

     In 1991 Mr. David Wassion while examining the mammoth bones at the Kenosha Public Museum noticed strange markings on the Fenske femur that appeared to him to be man-made with stone tools. He brought this to the attention of the museum's curator, Mr. Daniel J. Joyce. Mr. Joyce agreed that most of the mammoth bones that were in the museum's collection, specifically the bones from the Schaeffer site, Fenske site, and Mud Lake site had distinctive cut marks that could only be explained by their location and shape as actual butchering marks made by stone tools.

     Mr. Joyce then contacted Mr. David F. Overstreet of the Great Lakes Archeological Research Center and asked him to look at them. As Mr. Overstreet had been doing work on stone tools in the area at the time, he agreed that the markings on the bones did appear to be from butchering activity.

     Mr. Overstreet sent in a bone fragment said to have come from the Fenske site to Thomas W. Stafford Jr. who ran two AMS-XAD purified collagen dates on this fragment. The tests produced the dates of 13,470 +/- 50 BP and 13,510 +/- BP. In 2000, Mr. Joyce removed a sample from the shaft of the Fenske femur, and sent it to Stafford Research Laboratories for retesting. Two more tests produced dates of 11,230 +/- 40 BP and 11,220 +/- 40 BP. This discrepancy in dates can only be explained by wondering whether this bone fragment was from the Fenske site or did it actually come from the Mud Lake site bones as the two older dates fit perfectly in the date range that was run on the Mud Lake bones. The historical record only speaks to the removal of one vertebra and a femur bone from this site.

     In 1992 and 1993 Mr. Overstreet and Dr. Sverdrup tried to use remote sensing equipment at this site. Although they were able to locate potential anomalies, the Fenske site remains as one of many unexcavated ancient man butchered mastodon/mammoth sites in Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

     In the spring of 2003, the Fenske femur was definitively identified as a mastodon by archaeological experts. Two new cores were taken from the Fenske femur and sent to Stafford Research Laboratories who did the chemistry and to Lawrence Livermore Laboratories for the AMS processing. The two new dates are 11,230 +/- 50 RCYBP and 11,220 +/- 40 RCYBP. These new dates correspond well with the earlier core dates and with other mastodon dates in the area.

     According to Daniel J. Joyce, Kenosha Public Museum, the Schaefer site in extreme southeastern Wisconsin was excavated in 1992 and 1993. Seventy-five percent of a Mammoth, was recovered. Analysis indicated that the animal was a male. They concluded that disarticulated elements were deposited in a dense concentration and was soon covered with shallow water. In addition to the animal, drifted wood specimens and macrofossils were also recovered from the site.

     In Joyce’s report, fourteen AMS-XAD Gelatin (KOH Collagen) radiocarbon assays on bone, cluster between 12,200 and 12,500 radiocarbon years BP. Additionally fourteen dates on wood specimens, intimately associated with the bone, yielded a range of dates from 12,200 to 12,950 radiocarbon years BP firmly bracketing the mammoth bone dates. The remains exhibited multiple cut and wedge marks that are interpreted as being caused by tools. Non-diagnostic stone tools were found immediately below and in contact with the pelvis. A fully disarticulated bone pile deposited in a low energy environment also indicated human interaction in the Southwestern Lake Michigan Basin at this early date.

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