Oregon State University finds mammoth bones in the endzone of Reser Stadium, holds press conference

Bones Press Conference

Cianna Levi

By Cianna Levi

News Contributor

Resting below the north end zone of Reser Stadium for the last 10,000 years, a large Mammoth femur unearthed this week may just hold the award for the longest Beaver Football season ticket holder.

Construction crews made the discovery Monday afternoon while working on the Valley Football Center expansion project.

Work was stopped and Oregon State University’s Dr. Loren Davis, an archeologist and associate professor in anthropology was called in to examine the find.  

“Often I have to go very far to find things like this, but here it is, right in our backyard,” Davis said.  “The bones started to show up roughly ten feet below the surface.”

In an area of about five feet by four feet in size, bones such as a shoulder blade and smaller bone fragments began to appear. The bones of more complete discovery included the femur, two pelvis bones, a number of ribs, and a smaller lower limb bone, to name a few. The crew expanded the excavation to an overall area size of about eight feet by ten, in hopes of finding more bone or associated artifacts. It was confirmed in the press conference that there were no associated artifacts like human tools.

However, approximately a thousand bones from various animals have been recovered. According to Davis, the smaller bones are more difficult to put back together.

According to Davis, the largest bone, which was unveiled in the club level, was a cracked femur of a mammoth. Davis said the bone was lifted onto a slab of wood and carried all by manpower. The force of a machine would have been overwhelming for the fragile state that the bone was found in and may have caused the bone to snap.

Based on the size of the bone, it proves that the creature would have stood at almost twenty feet tall and would have been a juvenile or sub-adult.

The featured bone was covered in damp towels for preservation purposes because it was noted that the findings were not well-preserved due to the present day environment they were enveloped in. According to Davis, the femur, along with the other remains, is set to be covered in a preserving gel for the use of later study. No bones from the head up were discovered and the spinal cord was absent as well.

“By 10,000 years ago, these animals went extinct,” Davis said.

Davis mentioned that animals were attracted to this area because of the water to aid their thirst or illness. Of course, back in time, Loren Davis said that the water was in a different position and the environment was very different, being cooler, drier and inhabited by different plants and animals. Some of the animals that would have been present at that time include lions, tigers, sloths, mammoths, camels and even a rare extinct form of a beaver, which would have stood six feet tall.

Because this find was located on campus, OSU students will be able to work hands-on with the remains after preservative actions have been implemented.

“This is a really wonderful learning opportunity for me,” said JD Lancaster, the Ph. D student studying anthropology at OSU on the panel.

Lancaster was called to work amongst the crew who carefully exposed the site. Lancaster mentioned that they are trying to stabilize the condition of the bones for students to be able to study them.

Because of this story’s immediate relevance, OSU has not determined the final decision on the final resting place of the bones or the next step in the discovery, but Steve Clark, Vice President of University Relations and Marketing, made sure to note that it is among the University’s top priorities to take the utmost care of each new find.

“The story itself is mammoth in nature, having already received over 37 million web impressions, as well as seeing coverage in 35 countries around the globe, Clark said.

The bones were attributed to belonging to a mammoth because of their size, as well as the discovery of a piece of mammoth tooth at the site.

Davis explained that the bones were found in a layer of darker dirt which signifies that the area may have been a bog.

“We do not anticipate further excavation,” Clark said.

This story has not only made local and national news, but international headlines as well. According to Clark, there have been 37 million web impressions and approximately 110,000 photo views of Monday’s discoveries. Clark stated that he has received numerous calls about the breaking story from places stretching as far as Britain.

Mark Massari, deputy athletic director and capital projects, explained that they decided to go public with the story rather quickly after it was seen that student athletes, who had already been in the Valley Football Center at the time, had been taking photos and uploading to social media. Massari had put a call into head Football Coach, Gary Anderson, to inform him that they were coming out with the news.

“We do not anticipate further excavation,” Clark said.

Massari also added that construction has only been delayed about half a day to a day or so.

“There still will be football- winning football,” said Clark after concerns about delay times possibly pushing into football season arose during the Q&A portion of the conference.

Valley Football Center construction will continue as planned.

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Riley Youngman contributed to this report

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