The discovery of prehistoric mammoth remains in Oklahoma has made students at the state university very excited, while pipeline workers were left stunned.
Natural gas provider Access Midstream was working on a buried pipeline northwest of the city of Enid last August, when workers stumbled upon the beast's fossilized bones. The company reached out to the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, which in turn asked nearby Oklahoma State University if it might like to participate in the excavation and "reassembly" of the mammoth, local NBC affiliate KJRH reported.
“This is a dream come true,” Tom Cox, a geography graduate student at the university, told another local news outlet, KFOR.
Cox, who is supervising the dig and preservation efforts for his master's thesis project, also spoke with KJRH, saying: "This has been 20 years in the making for me. ... I've wanted to do it all my life and now I've got my opportunity."
Among the roughly two dozen Oklahoma State students helping Cox is Taylor Iberosi, a sophomore. She told KJRH that being able to leave the classroom and get her hands dirty was "the best kind of experience you can have."
And it's not only students who have fallen under the mammoth's spell.
“We are really fortunate to be involved in excavating such a find and the mammoth’s fossilized remains are in very good condition for this type of removal and reassembly,” Dr. Dale Lightfoot, head of the geology department at the university, said in a written statement.
Even Access Midstream was surprised by the quality of the remains.
“It’s not unusual to find fossils, but to find such a large animal and for it to be so complete is exciting,” Michael Rinehart, an environmental health and safety specialist with the firm, said in the statement. “Access is committed to following environmental best practices and we are pleased to work with [Oklahoma State University] and the Oklahoma Archeological Survey for the preservation of these historic artifacts.”
Researchers say they believe the mammoth is about 50,000 years old, and it's probably an Imperial or Columbia Mammoth rather than the better known woolly mammoth. Both were common in the region tens of thousands of years ago.