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Mastodon - Not a Stranger to the Hudson River Valley


I. Background

a. Name: American Mastodon (Mammut american)

b. Size: 6 to 10 feet tall; 6 to 8 tons each (females at smaller end of spectra)

c. Other physical characteristics: Shaggy coats, upward curved tusks

d. Habitat: Alaska to Brazil, though thrive in marsh-like areas, especially Hudson River Valley

e. Lifespan: 60 years

f. Reason for extinction: Not known - lived until 10,000 years ago

g. Living relative: Elephant (proboscidia family)

h. Not a dinosaur, though frequently confused as one


II. Mastodon Finds In the New York's Hudson River Valley

a. Orange County, NY is the source of first complete Mastodon skeleton, and the most fossils in New York have been found in this county

b. Peale and Founding Fathers

i. First mastodon in the country found in Hudson River Valley

ii. Second mastodon found in the world

iii. 1801 Charles Wilson Peale 'excavated' the Hudson River Valley near Newburgh, NY at the farm of John Masten

1. Mastodon was a "Symbol of National Identity"

2. Paul Semon wrote about this, and how the founding fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson, were very interested in this animal, and 'wanted to see it as a carnivorous beast - a symbol for the aggressive, growing nation...' in his book "American Monster"

3. Children's book of the dig "The Great Unknown"

iv. Peale's Famous Painting - "Exhuming of the Mastodon"

v. Skeleton went into Peale's Philadelphia Museum, then sold to France, and now rests at Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, Germany

vi. More information On Peale

c. Cohoes Mastodon

i. Found in 1836 in Cohoes, (between Troy and Schenectady)

ii. Were excavating for Mill No. 3 of the Harmony Mills

iii. Replica is on display at the Cohoes Public Library

iv. Original was on moving exhibit, and has been restored

v. VISIT him: New York State Museum

d. Warren's Mastodon

i. Found in 1845 near Newburg, NY

ii. First entire American mastodon skeleton found in the United States

iii. One of the most complete mastodon skeletons known, still today

iv. VISIT at the American Museum of Natural History, where it has been since 1925

e. Shawangunk Valley Mastodons

i. Montgomery, 1845

1. "Perfect"' skeleton

2. Unusually large, at 11 feet high, 20 feet long

3. VISIT at Boston

ii. Mount Hope, 1872

1. Smaller and less complete versus Montgomery Mastodon

2. VISIT New Haven County

iii. Other places, less complete, generally fragments

1. Crawford

2. Ward's Bridge

3. Masten

f. Baisley Park Mastodon

i. Found in 1858 in Jamaica, Queens

ii. Five teeth and a few bone fragments found

iii. Not much in that region and Long Island due to water-saturated soil

iv. Today there's Mastodon Art at Baisley Park

g. Museum Village Mastodon

i. Found in 1952 near Monroe

ii. Large, very old male

iii. VISIT him: Natural History Building of Museum Village (www.museumvillage.com )

h. Sugar Loaf Mastodon "Sugar"

i. Found in 1972 on Warwick-Chester border

ii. 20 feet long male; 9 feet tall (at pelvis); unusual tusk at lower jaw

iii. Radiocarbon dated between 7910 BC - 8135 BC

iv. VISIT him: housed at SUNY Orange in the Bio-tech building since 1976

v. Currently, trying to restore him because old methods of preserving trapped moisture in the bones and he is decaying

i. Hyde Park Mastodon

i. One of the most complete skeletons of an American Mastodon ever found

ii. 95% of bones recovered

iii. Unearthed August 1999 - 2000 (Read the daily logs: August-October 2000 and June 2000 )

iv. Adult male, 30 to 40 years old

v. Weighed 10,000 to 15,000 pounds when alive

vi. Lived 11,500 years ago (radioactive carbon dating)

vii. Sediment samples help reconstruct climate during his life - Sediment Core

viii. Very popular:

1. Media Coverage

2. Featured on the Discovery Channel

ix. August 2002 - sent to University of Michigan for molding and studying

x. February 2003 - sent to Canada for mounting

xi. May 2003 - sent to Ithaca, NY for display

xii. VISIT him: Museum of the Earth

j. Gilbert's Mastodon

i. The first time mastodon and mammoth fossils found together

ii. Located in North Chemung County, South of Watkins Glen

iii. 1999 found and excavated by Cornell University

iv. 35 year old male

v. Lived 10,000 - 14,000 years ago

vi. Recovered 80% of skeleton

vii. Studied, prepared, and on display at PRI

viii. VISIT him: Museum of the Earth

k. North Java Mastodon (between Rochester and Buffalo)

i. Found July 2001

ii. Small, juvenile most likely female

iii. Age unknown

iv. Photos From the Dig

l. Ellenville, NY

i. Mastodon tooth found

ii. Wawarsing Township

iii. McElhone's Pond

m. Bear Mountain Park Trailside Museums and Wildlife Center

i. Geology Museum houses mastodon bones found near museum

ii. VISIT them: Bear Mountain Zoo


III. New Jersey Area Mastodon Finds

i. Random molars and tusks have been recovered from the coast off the sea floor, some even found several hundred miles from the shore under hundreds of feet of water

ii. Some skeletons/fragments found mostly between Vienna and Hackettstown, NJ

ii. Unnamed

a. Found in 1869 - very complete

b. Located in a bed of gray marl in Mannington Township, Salem County, NJ

c. 22 feet long

d. 9 feet 8 inches high

e. 10,000 years old

f. One of the finest specimens of mastodon found in NJ

g. VISIT is in the Museum of Rutgers University

iii. Matilda

a. Found in 1954 intact with teeth

b. Exhumed from South of Vernon, NJ in Sussex County

c. Young female

d. 8 feet tall at shoulders

e. 15 feet long

f. Lived around 9000 BC

g. VISIT her at the New Jersey State Museum

iii. Ortlip's Hackensack Mastodon

1. Discovered in 1962 while constructing Route 80

2. VISIT at The Bergen Museum

iv. Dwarkill Mastodon

1. Discovered in 1973

2. VISIT at The Bergen Museum

IV. Native Americans

i. Much folklore was based upon fossils of prehistoric creatures

ii. Read some stories for yourself!


V. Resources