California paleontologists roam 'valley of the mastodons'
July 12, 1997
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EDT (0340 GMT)
From Correspondent Jim Hill
HEMET, California (CNN) -- In California's sun-baked desert, teams of workers
are reconstructing the huge skeleton of a prehistoric
The remnants were unearthed and carefully encased in plaster
near Hemet, California, as part of a revealing archaeological
project. The bones were discovered 40 percent intact, and
paleontologist Eric Scott described them as an "exceptional
It is only the second discovery of the elephant-like
creatures in this inland valley. Once common, they died off mysteriously about
30,000 years ago.
Paleontologists monitoring the construction of a series of
dams noticed the bones poking out of the heavy clay.
"It's always a bit of a rush, because most of the time we're
out here we find small things," paleontologist Steve Kesler
In one pit, experts have scraped away the soil to reveal a
long-horned bison, a ground sloth and a western horse -- all
Before construction began several years ago, no one knew this
low-lying area would yield so many prehistoric remains. The
inland area has been dubbed "valley of the mastodons."
"It's very helpful in determining what inland California was
like," Scott said.
In the past two years, researchers also have found the ruins
of human camp sites, perhaps 8,000 years old.
The discoveries indicate that the California desert region
once was heavily forested and much wetter. When the dams are
finished, the land will once again be underwater, transformed
into a reservoir serving 16 million Southern Californians.
But first it will have quenched the thirst for knowledge of
the ancient people and creatures that once roamed there.
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