Researchers find Mastodon bones up and down Mississippi River - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Researchers discover Mastodon bones up and down Mississippi River

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(WMC-TV) - Pre-historic bones are surfacing in some Mid-South neighborhoods, and researchers in the area say these discoveries could be the beginning of a major discovery. 

"When people find a big bone, they just call it a dinosaur bone because they don't know what it is," said Ron Brister with the Pink Palace Museum. 

According to Brister, the Mid-South has always had its share of secrets, some larger than others. If it's unearthed in these parts, he said, it's most likely a Mastodon!

"It's a big cemetery...we're not the first ones here," Brister said.

Last summer, a Brighton couple unearthed history while putting in a pool in their backyard. At first, experts weren't sure what it was, but now they know.

"Initially when I ran into the jaw and got to the front of it, I ran into tusks I was not familiar with - the jaw of a Mastodon," said the Pink Palace's Roy Young.

It was a rare find with four tusks, and scientists believe it's 20,000 to 25,000 years old.

"There was no other bones around, for us to dig it up," Young said. "We'd have to dig up a brand new subdivision to see if there were other bones scattered, because this was a new subdivision and it was 12 feet down."

Similar discoveries have been made in Greenville and Rosedale, Mississippi...Poinsett, Arkansas...and north up to Lauderdale and Obion counties.

Researchers say they've made discoveries up and down the Mississippi River.

"People are all the time in creeks near Memphis, Johnson Creek, Nonconnah Creek, and even Wolf River," Brister said. "If you look at the banks of these sometimes, you'll see gray clay layers, and these are backwater swamp deposits where you'll find these bones and plant fossils."

In 1967, workers discovered Mastodon bones where the science building now stands at Rhodes College.  Then, in the mid-1970's, researchers unearthed ankle, skull and tusk fragments from a Mastodon - along with teeth - near Nonconnah Creek.

"We think the one found at Nonconnah Creek got mired down in a backwater swamp and died there," Brister said. "He may have had a heart attack trying to extract himself from there. He was young and in a swampy area."

The late 80's brought about more discoveries in Raleigh, and last summer's find in Brighton proves there are even more of the mammoths to be discovered.

"Look to the ground, and if you find something you think is interesting and you don't know what it is, ask someone," Brister said.

You can check out the Mid-South's Mastodon discoveries for yourself at the Pink Palace Museum. And if you find bones, call the researchers there and they'll help.

For more information about the Pink Palace Museum, click here.

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