(Be sure to check out the large slideshow at the end of the story by Burrill Strong.)
With about 33 steer on the Bristle farm curiously watching the activities Tuesday morning, a team of U-M paleontologists washed the mud off the skull and tusks of the Woolly Mammoth found on a Lima Township farm last week.
Using water from two hoses, they carefully cleaned those and other artifacts. Then later in the afternoon, they removed the tusks from the skull to make it easier to carefully transport the bones to their new home at the U-M Museum of Paleontology.
The multicolored steer calmly watched as about 60 artifacts were placed on tarps and inventoried next to their fence. They were not the least bit upset as TV reporter filmed a segment, and about a half dozen bystanders stood around watching the washing process.
Farmers Jim Bristle and Trent Satterthwaite who found the mammoth, had their equipment back out in the now famous field and were ready to finish the tiling project that led to the historic discovery of the adult male Woolly Mammoth. It’s believed to have lived between 15,000 and 20,000 years ago.
Both men said that they were ready to get back to farming so next spring the field next to the famous dig site, could be planted in corn.
Bristle said as of 5 p.m. Monday night, the Mammoth officially belonged to U-M. Dan Fisher, an expert in the field and U-M professor, and his crew were expected to remove all the artifacts from his farm by the end of the day on Tuesday.
“One way or another,” Fisher said, “it’s overwhelmingly likely that some portion (of the Mammoth artifacts) will be displayed; there will be something for people to see.”
Since about 20 percent of the mammal was uncovered, he hopes to be able to put together bones he’s found on other digs to piece together a complete Woolly Mammoth.
“In the longer run, we hope to mount a whole Mammoth,” he said, which will also be on display.
The Bristle farm has been a busy place since the discovery, with people stopping by to see the bones from all over the area.
And Fisher said he understands the special relationship that farmers have with their land.
“In his younger years, my dad was an academic,” then he moved his family to a farm, turned to organic gardening and eventually to ranching, Fisher said.
“Usually, farmers and scientists are on far ends of the spectrum,” Fisher said, but not in his case.
Fisher said he’s been in lots of sites and places around the world and has always worked around the farming operations – with a personal understanding of “a farmer’s deep concern for the land. This kind of scientist is interested in the land.”
Bristle said the drainage project, which should have taken about a day to complete, was delayed for about a week by the Mammoth find.
But the story has come full circle. A piece of history has left the farm and will be on display for everyone to see, and Bristle and Satterthwaite have returned to farming the land they hold so dear.