Wooly Mammoth Fossil Unearthed in Chandler
A routine site inspection turned into a gigantic discovery in 1997 when the 10,000-year-old remains of a wooly mammoth were unearthed in east Chandler!
Chandler City officials received an interesting phone call on July 3, 1997. Upon seeing what appeared to be bone fragments emerging from the walls of a freshly dug sewer ditch, a City inspector notified authorities that something big could be brewing.
City officials stopped work and called in the experts: scientists from nearby Arizona State University. Brad Archer, the curator of the University's Museum of Geology confirmed the find: a woolly mammoth -- and quite well preserved.
In fact, the find was the second for Chandler. The first was a similar find, about a mile from this site, that was discovered in 1985. More animal fossils eventually were unearthed -- all believed to have lived near the end of the Ice Age, which finished its thaw about 10,000 years ago.
The find was part of a new residential development in Chandler, which was postponed while paleontologists finished their dig. Some bone fragments were taken from the site one evening by thieves, but the area was then secured with an around-the-clock guard, provided by the homebuilder.
The find created quite the stir among residents who swarmed the site to get a look at a real piece of history. "This is truly an exciting event," then Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said at the time of the discovery. "It reminds us we were, by no means, the first to inhabit this area, and we want to remain sensitive to that."
From the Arizona Republic, July 4, 1997
A mammoth find in Valley
By Edythe Jensen The Arizona Republic
July 4, 1997
It could have been an Ice Age barbecue or evidence that Chandler was
once a Stone Age hangout. Thursday's discovery of woolly mammoth remains
beneath a UDC Homes construction site near Chandler Boulevard and
Gilbert Road may turn out to be one of the state's more significant
archaeological finds, said Brad Archer, an Arizona State University
geologist. Mammoths became extinct more than 10,000 years ago.
Archer was called by Chandler officials when city building inspector Bernard
Schuster noticed some odd-looking white objects stuck in brown clay soil
on the sides of a newly dug sewer trench. He figured they were bones.
"You dig around long enough, and you're bound to run into a grave
someplace," Schuster said. His supervisor advised him to contact ASU.
Archer credits the inspector with saving rare evidence of the Ice Age
East Valley and the most complete woolly mammoth skeleton ever found in
Maricopa County. Grazers accustomed to cooler climates, mammoths roamed
Arizona when it was lush, green and cool, Archer said. The one unearthed
Thursday belonged to a variety called Mammuthus, which was smaller than
an African elephant but with an elephant-like appearance and long fur, he said.
"I'm sure there were many more sites like this that were just
covered up because construction crews don't recognize them," he said. By
the time Archer arrived, the Chandler mammoth remains had been broken by
excavation equipment that dug a trench through the middle of the bones,
chipping some of them into small pieces and tossing their ancient white
particles atop piles of dirt next to the trenches. A tusk was sliced in half.
Archer said only two other partial mammoth remains have been
discovered in the Valley -- one excavated by Archer 12 years ago in
Chandler in what is now the Springs housing development. The other was
discovered more than 20 years ago in Scottsdale. The earlier finds
included only a few bones or teeth. What appeared to be charcoal and
unrelated bones at the Chandler site may make it even more significant,
Archer said. The charcoal and haphazard arrangement of the mammoth bones
could signify an Ice Age "kill site" where man hunted mammoth for food.
If it is, this will be the first evidence of man in the Valley more than
10,000 years ago, Archer said. Evidence of human life during that era
has been discovered in Tucson, but not around Phoenix, he said.
Brushing dirt from bones and painting them with preservatives in the afternoon
sun, Archer and volunteer archaeologist John Babiarz labored under
intense heat in a narrow trench. They expected to spend their three-day
holiday weekend getting the mammoth remains out because excavating crews
for the new Dobson Place subdivision are scheduled to cover the sewer
lines Monday. Construction crews had planned to cover them after
Schuster's 10 a.m. inspection but stopped at his request. The buried lines
soon will be covered with asphalt for a yet unnamed neighborhood street.
If excavation of the mammoth takes longer or if other rare finds
are unearthed, Chandler spokesman Dave Bigos said the city will ask UDC
to delay this portion of the project and excavate another area of
development first. "Who knows, when it comes time to name the street, we
may be driving down Woolly Mammoth Boulevard," Bigos said.
Efforts to contact UDC officials were unsuccessful Thursday.