Alaskan Muck: The Mastodons of New York

The storyline states Mastodons met their maker 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.

Mastodons are any species of extinct proboscideans in the genus Mammut (family Mammutidae), distantly related to elephants, that inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene 10,000 to 11,000 years ago.

Except, of course, when the radiocarbon randomiser says otherwise.

Radiocarbon dates from 9,600 to 5,300 years ago have been found for some mastodon remains. It must be conceded that they may possibly have survived in North America until a much later date than this.

The Mastodons of New York
Earth’s Shifting Crust:
A Key to Some Basic Problems of Earth Science
Charles Hutchins Hapgood – 1958 – Pantheon Books

The official Mastodon narrative never really recovers from this shaky start.

For example:

The Burning Tree Mastodon from Ohio is said to have enjoyed a diet of water lilies and swamp grass [about] 11,500 years ago during the last Ice Age.

The Burning Tree Mastodon represents the most complete skeleton of American Mastodon ever found.

The specimen was discovered on 12 December 1989 by a Flower Excavating Company drag line operator who was digging a new pond on the Burning Tree Golf Course grounds in Heath, southern Licking County, Ohio.

The drag line’s shovel caught and damaged the skull.

In the following three days, the fossil was excavated during relatively bitter winter cold and blowing winds. Excavation was conducted by the Ohio Historical Society and the Licking County Archaeology & Landmarks Society and volunteers from several organizations.

Remains of >150 mastodons have been reported in Ohio, but only about a dozen or so are semi-complete.

The Burning Tree Mastodon is a ~30 year old male and is 90-95% complete, missing only the right rear leg, a few tail bones, two ribs, and all the toe bones.

The lower spine and right rib cage have healed injuries which have been interpreted as the result of battles with other mastodons.

Cut marks on some of the ribs indicate that this individual was butchered by early humans. Preserved stomach contents and intestinal contents were also recovered.

Isotopic dating of wood closely associated with the skeleton gives dates of 11,450 to 11,660 years.

Isotopic dating of actual bone material gives an 11,390 year date (during the Wisconsinan Glacial Interval of the near-latest Pleistocene).

In addition to being near-complete, the Burning Tree Mastodon is remarkable in other ways.

Preserved gut contents indicated a diet of moss, seeds, leaves, water lilies, and swamp grass.

Before this discovery, American Mastodons were interpreted as having diets consisting principally of twigs & cones from evergreen trees.

The original Burning Tree Mastodon skeleton was sold in 1993 for over US$600,000 and now resides in a museum in Japan.

Flickr: James St. John

The first modest Mastodon remnant was found in New York during 1705.

The first remnant of Mammut, a tooth some 2.2 kg (5 lb) in weight, was discovered in the village of Claverack, New York, in 1705.

The mystery animal became known as the “incognitum”.

Based on the size of bones discovered near the tooth, the Massachusetts poet Edward Taylor estimated the incognitum’s height at 60 or 70 feet (10 would have been closer to the mark) and wrote bad poetry about “Ribbs like Rafters” and arms “like limbs of trees.” The minister Cotton Mather boasted that the New World possessed biblical giants to make the Old World’s “Og and GOLIATH, and all the Sons of Anak” look like pygmies.

Mammoths and Mastodons: All American Monsters
Richard Conniff – Smithsonian Magazine – April 2010

During the next two centuries 100 Mastodon finds are known in New York

Some of the finds – like the Cohoes Mastodon – spring surprises.

Cohoes is an incorporated city located in the northeast corner of Albany County in the U.S. state of New York. It is called the “Spindle City” because of the importance of textile manufacturing to its growth in the 19th century. The city’s factories processed cotton from the Deep South.

Cohoes is at the confluence of the Mohawk with the Hudson River, where the Mohawk forms several channels and islands.,_New_York

Surprise #1
The Cohoes Mastodon was found [roughly] 60 feet down under slate and peat.


In the latter part of May, ground was broken by the Harmony Co. for the erection of a new cotton factory, Mill No. 3, on the east side of Mohawk street, opposite their first building.

While excavations for the foundation were being made, a few months later, the skeleton of a mastodon was discovered, an event which awakened great interest here, and caused Cohoes to be for some time quite prominently before the public.

The foundation of the mill for nearly its entire length is laid upon a bed of slate rock.

At the north end of the building it was found that the layer of rock was thin and rested upon a large bed of peat ; with a view to the removal of this, a small section was excavated to a depth of about sixty feet, and in so doing numerous relics of earlier ages were exhumed.

The first discoveries, made in the middle of September, were decayed stumps and limbs of trees which lay imbedded in the rich loam ; a week later, near the bottom of the bed, the jaw-bone of the mastodon was unearthed.

The event was described as follows in the Cataract, Sept. 29 :

” Assuredly there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy !

Those who, during the present generation, have trod the earth of Cohoes have never taken into their wildest imaginings the strange things that were concealed beneath the surface.

But the late excavations made by the Harmony Co., have brought to light the fact that a huge mastodon once dwelt where our village now stands, in an age that has been followed by the mightiest convulsions and upheavals.

Fifty feet below the surface the jaw of this monster has been found, and has created in our village such a sensation as few events ever excited. . . .

The jaw is somewhat decayed and flaky but the 24 teeth are in excellent preservation ; the length of each jaw bone is thirty-two inches ; the breadth across the jaw at the broadest point twenty inches and the extreme depth about twelve inches.

On one side is a single tooth four inches in length and two and a half in width, and on the other two teeth one of which is six and a half inches long, the other four, and each uniform in width and shape with its neighbor opposite.

The holes or cavities for the dental nerves are from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. . . .

The excavation has revealed other wonders, little less re markable.

Vast volumes of oak wood, so tender that it can be cut and removed with a shovel, are intermingled with the peat.

This wood when exposed to the sun or fire until thoroughly dried, becomes as hard as if it had never decayed.

On each side of the peat bed so far as traced, are perpendicular rocks into which huge semi-circular cavities, deep and smooth, have been worn by the action of water.

There is but one solution of this mystery.

The cavity of rock where the deposit of peat now rests, was once the bed of a stream running diagonally across the line of the street and towards the Mohawk.

As the peat was covered deeply with slate rock, it is evident that the stream had a subterranean channel and outlet at this place, though perhaps an open river above.

In this wonderful revelation there is a vast field for speculation both for the geologist and the zoologist.”

Further discoveries were made from time to time within the next few weeks ; the skull, tusk, leg-bones, ribs and enough other bones of the animal to make the skeleton nearly complete were found, most of them in a pot-hole distant some sixty feet from the one in which the jaw bone was buried.

The remains of numerous beaver dams were also brought to light, containing logs and pieces of wood, cut with great precision and neatness by the teeth of their builders.

The History of Cohoes, New York – Arthur Haynesworth Masten – 1877

Surprise #2
The Cohoes Mastodon looks a few bones short of a skeleton.

The bones were kept for some time at the office of the Harmony Mills, where they were visited by hundreds of persons, among whom were Profs. Marsh of Yale college, Hall of Albany and a number of other scientific men.

They were also placed on exhibition in Troy, at the county fair and in Harmony Hall.

Several theories were advanced to account for the burial of the bones in the peat bed in such a manner the one sup ported by the highest authority being that they were thus disposed by the action of moving water or ice.

In the former case it maybe supposed that the body of the animal had floated down the stream, gradually decomposing, while fragments were from time to time detached, and what remained was deposited in the hole where the bulk of the skeleton was found ; in the latter, the theory was, that the remains were imbedded in a glacier from the melting edge of which they were dropped, and preserved, first by a covering of water in the depression, and afterward by an accumulation of mud, marl or peaty matter ; that there may have been similar remains deposited in the gravel, but that the percolating water had entirely or for the most part destroyed them.

At a discussion of the matter held by the national academy of science at Hartford, it was stated that ” the facts brought out in connection with the Cohoes mastodon forever set at rest the commonly received opinion that the mastodon bones usually found in the marshes are the remains of those animals who visit these places for food and drink.”

Several offers were received by the Harmony Co. from public institutions for the purchase of the remains, and it was thought at one time that they would be sold and the proceeds given to the Union Sunday School.

It was finally decided, however, to present them to the state.

The legislature voted an appropriation of $2,000 for completing the search for the bones, and mounting the skeleton, and passed a joint resolution tendering thanks to Mr. Wild and the Harmony Go. for their generosity.

In the following year the skeleton was placed in position in the State Cabinet of Natural History, at Albany.

The History of Cohoes, New York – Arthur Haynesworth Masten – 1877

Surprise #3
The Cohoes mastodon has “extraordinary malformed dentition”.

In September 1866, T. G. Younglove, an official of the Harmony Mills at Cohoes, N. Y., a place where a diminished postglacial Mohawk River pours in cascade over the upturned strata of the ” Hudson River ” shale, writes to announce the discovery of a great pothole in the rocks encountered in the course of some excavations being made for new foundations and invites Hall to come up and see the curious things that were being taken out of it.

Hall paid no attention to the letter.

In a few days another comes telling of the finding of a lower jaw ” of some unknown beast ” lying on a ledge of rock projecting into the great hole.

Hall went; the company enlisted all needed help to continue the excavation to the bottom of the pit, and there were uncovered pretty much the entire remains of a great skeleton.

Thus was born the remarkable Cohoes mastodon; remarkable for its perfection of skeleton, for its extraordinary malformed dentition and above all for its mode of preservation : — the bony remains of a carcass floated down in the high postglacial waters and caught in the eddy of the great pit.

The skeleton, buried at a depth of about seventy feet, was exhumed and presented to the museum by the president of the company, Mr Alfred Wild.

James Hall of Albany – John Mason Clarke – 1921

Surprise #4
By 1922 the Cohoes Mastodon narrative had lost it’s overlying layer of slate.

A Shaggy Mastodon Story
In 1958 Charles Hapgood tried to sidestep single specimen surprises by writing an all embracing narrative for the Mastodons of New York.

In its original sense, a shaggy dog story or yarn is an extremely long-winded anecdote characterized by extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents and terminated by an anticlimax.

Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience’s preconceptions of joke-telling.

The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner.

A lengthy shaggy dog story derives its humour from the fact that the joke-teller held the attention of the listeners for a long time (such jokes can take five minutes or more to tell) for no reason at all, as the end resolution is essentially meaningless.

The narrative reviews the Mastodon evidence and concludes the climate was temperate “like that prevailing in New York State today”.

Having arrived at this temperate climate conclusion the storyline [somehow or other] envisions the Mastodons [Mammoths and a cast of millions] being imprisoned in the Wisconsin icecap until they are finally deposited [as required] by the retreating icecap.

If you don’t believe in Ice Ages then it’s just a shaggy mastodon story.

If you believe in Ice Ages then you might find the story comprehensible.

The Mastodons of New York

About seventy-five years ago, considerable excitement was aroused in scientific and popular circles by the discovery of the remains of extinct animals in various parts of the United States.

Perhaps the most sensational of these finds was that of the mastodons.

Many of these were found in New York State, and in some cases they were so well preserved that it was still possible to analyze the contents of the animals’ stomachs.

Some extensive accounts of these mastodons have appeared in print.

Since science, like clothing, has its fashions, a period of attention to the mastodons was followed by a period of neglect.

Neglect did not overtake them, however, before conclusions were reached respecting them.

It was noted that nearly all the best-preserved remains were found in bogs and swamps, where, it was assumed, they had been mired and sucked down to their deaths.

This explanation of their deaths was accepted, apparently without any dissent, and it involved, of course, the acceptance also of the opinion that the animals had inhabited New York State after the departure of the ice sheet.

It was concluded that the animals were postglacial.

The conclusion was inevitable, because the ice sheet would have plowed up all bogs, and the animals’ bodies could not have been preserved from destruction by it.

So the matter rested the mastodons ceased to attract attention.

There followed a period during which the general trend of scientific opinion led finally to the view that neither mammoths nor mastodons, nor any of the other extinct Pleistocene animals, had lived in North America after the ice age.

But no one has gone back to dig up the evidence of the mastodons and ask how, if they did not live in New York State after the ice age, they came to be buried in the bogs where they are found.

It is now our task to reopen this closed chapter, to drag these ancient beasts once more from their tomb.

We shall first look at some of their case histories, and then summarize our findings.

One might imagine two alternative solutions of the problem.

Either the mastodons lived in New York State after the ice age, and got themselves mired in the bogs where their bodies are found, or they got mired in the bogs before the ice age, and somehow escaped destruction by the passage over them of the mile-thick ice sheet.

In the latter case, the animals would have been found in beds of swampy vegetable stuff below the sand, gravel, and striated stones deposited by the glacier.

How, then, are we to explain the fact that the animal remains are not found in this layer but are mixed up with the glacial materials themselves?

Since this is usually true, we are driven to the conclusion that the animals were mired in New York State bogs neither before nor after the coming of the ice sheet.

Before pressing on to further conclusions, let us consider the details of a few cases.

In August, 1871, a mastodon was discovered one mile north of Jamestown, New York, and the remains were examined in situ by Professor S. G. Love and others. Love described the find as follows:

On the east side of the Fredonia road, about one mile north of Jamestown, is the farm of Joel L. Hoyt.

About 500 yards from the road is a sink or slough covering about an acre, possibly more in extent, and varying from two to eight feet in depth, and fed by several living springs.

Cattle have been mired and lost there since the farm was first occupied.

Mr. Hoyt drained the sink and left the muck to dry, and later commenced an excavation there.

The work of excavation had continued a little more than a week, when the workmen began to find (as they supposed) a peculiar kind of wood and roots, imbedded some six feet beneath the surface.

For several days they continued to carry the small pieces into an adjoining field with the muck, and to pile the larger ones with pine roots and stumps to be burned.

But Mr. Hoyt discovered unmistakable evidences of the remains of some huge animal.

At once there was a change in the procedure, in order to secure specimens and determine their character.

It was difficult to determine the precise position of the remains, as they were much disturbed and partially removed before any special notice was taken of them.

From the best information I could get, I conclude that the body lay with the head to the east, from four to six feet beneath the surface, and in a partially natural position.

Many of the bones were, however, out of place. The lower jaw was about five feet from the head and lay on the side crushed together so that the rows of teeth were very near each other.

The tusks extended easterly in nearly a natural position, and, judging from the statements of Mr. Hoyt and the workmen, they must have been from ten to twelve feet in length.

After digging into the gravel and clay about ten inches I found traces of a rib, decayed but distinctly marked, over five feet in length.

Where the body must have lain were found large quantities of vegetable matter (evidently the contents of the stomach) mostly decayed, in which were innumerable small twigs varying from one half inch to two inches in length.

The remains were all in a very forward state of decay; and when I reached the ground I found it possible to do little more than had already been done to preserve them.

[There follows a list of individual parts found.]

Here an important point is the fact that parts of the remains were found mixed with the sand and gravel, which had been deposited by the ice sheet as it retreated.

This fact suggests that the carcass may have been dropped or washed out of the icecap into a glacial pool, which later through a process of countless freezings and thawings and accumulation of sediments became a bog.

Later Professor Love amplified the foregoing remarks in a very interesting manner, in a paper read before the Chautauqua Society of History and Natural Science, July 16, 1885:

The twigs found in such large quantities where the stomach would naturally be were found, upon microscopical examination and comparison, to be of the same kind (genera and species) as the cone bearing trees (pine and spruce) of the present day.

Mingled with the twigs was a mass of yellowish fetid matter, probably the remains of some vegetation which did not possess the staying qualities of the balsamic cone-bearers.

Several important points are illustrated in these passages.

They are all brought out, as well, in numerous other cases.

The more significant points appear to be:

a. The rib was found buried in the glacial material under the muck, as already mentioned.

b. Some force crushed the jaw and separated other parts of the body, without completely disturbing its natural position.

We shall find many cases of this sort of thing.

c. The stomach was found to contain evidence of vegetation such as now grows in New York State.

Since the animal did not live after glacial times, and since the vegetation naturally did not exist in New York State when it was covered by a mile of ice, it follows that the animal lived in the last Interglacial Period, and that New York then had a climate something like the present.

d. The discovery of the remains in a mire tells us nothing of the mode of death, because only in a mire would they have had any chance of being preserved.

Animals dying in other situations, or left in dry places by the retreating ice, would have disintegrated completely.

e. The evidence favors the conclusion that the body of the mastodon was preserved within the vast ice sheet itself, and was deposited when the ice withdrew, in a bog where conditions continued to favor its preservation.

The power of bogs to preserve animal and vegetable matter for long periods is well known.

The instances cited by Hartnagel and Bishop of mastodons that clearly were not mired in bogs include one mastodon whose remains, a tusk, were found in sand near Fairport; another whose tusk and teeth were found in sand and gravel in the town of Perrinton; one whose remains (ribs, skull, tusk, leg bone) were found “about four feet below the surface in a hollow or water course, lying on and in a very hard body of blue clay, and about two feet above the polished limestone . . .”; “a rib of a mammoth or mastodon found 12 feet below the surface of the ground in gravel” at Rochester, and other instances (203:35-39).

Dr. Roy L. Moodie, of the New York State Museum, in his Popular Guide to the Nature and the Environment of the Fossil Vertebrates of New York, discusses a mastodon that was deposited entire in a glacial pothole:

. . . The pothole was made by whirling waters grinding the loose stones in a depression, gradually deepening in the post-glacial Mohawk River, and the body of the mammoth came down with the ice and dropped into the hole…

This particular case provides an excellent illustration of the process by which so many of the animal bodies were torn apart, not only in New York State but also probably in Siberia, where the melting of a thinner ice sheet would still have produced torrents in which the bodies detached from the ice could be dashed against rocks and broken to pieces.

Hartnagel and Bishop, referring to the few remains of mammoths that have been found in New York State, remark:

There is no doubt that the mammoth remains were imbedded in the sand and gravels laid down during the recession of the ice sheet.

Examples of these are best seen in the Lewiston specimens of teeth and bones which were found deeply buried in the spit formed in Lake Iroquois…

Sir Charles Lyell visited the site of the discovery of a mastodon near Geneseo, Livingston County, New York, and described his observations in his Travels in North America, in a passage quoted by Hartnagel and Bishop:

I was desirous of knowing whether any shells accompanied the bones, and whether they were of recent species.

Mr. Hall and I therefore procured workmen, who were soon joined by some amateurs of Geneseo, and a pit was dug to a depth of about five feet from the surface.

Here we came upon a bed of white shell marl and sand, in which lay portions of the skull, ivory tusk and vertebrae, of the extinct quadruped.

The shells proved to be all of existing freshwater and land species now common to this district.

I had been told that the mastodon’s teeth were taken out of muck, or the black superficial peaty earth of the bog.

I was therefore glad to ascertain that it was really buried in the shell-marl below the peat, and therefore agreed in situation with the large fossil elks of Ireland, which, though often said to occur in peat, are in fact met with in subjacent beds of marl.

Let us, in passing, note in this passage the evidence that whatever occurred in Siberia and in North America (though perhaps at different times) seems also to have occurred in Ireland.

If it is now clear that the mastodons were actually contained in the great continental glacier, a question may arise as to their probable numbers.

Were these animals rare or did they exist in great herds?

Hartnagel and Bishop quote an earlier writer, who remarked:

… I have been particular in stating the relative situations and distances of those places in which bones have been discovered, from a certain point, to show, from the small district in which many discoveries have been made, the great probability that these animals must have been very numerous in this part of the country, for if we compare the small proportion that swamps, in which only they are found, bear to the rest of the surface, and the very small proportion that those parts of such swamps as have yet been explored, bear to the whole of such swamps, the probable conclusion is that they must once have existed here in great numbers.

It must not be supposed that only mastodons and some mammoths were thus caught in the ice sheet and deposited as it retreated.

Hartnagel and Bishop give instances of the finding of remains of foxes, horses, large bears, black bears, giant beaver, small beaver, peccaries, deer, elk, caribou, moose, and bison, forming a mixture of extinct and still living species, all deposited in the same way.

Moreover, discoveries were not confined to New York State, but embraced the entire area once covered by the great ice sheet.

We must therefore conclude that in all probability some millions of all these sorts of animals were enclosed in the ice sheet.

Now the question must be asked, Did they live in the regions where they are now found, or were they carried greater or lesser distances by the moving ice?

This is an important question.

Glaciers often carry vast quantities of debris, even huge boulders, hundreds of miles, even in some cases uphill.

Hartnagel and Bishop give an excellent description of the way in which a great ice sheet moves, and provide a partial answer to the question, in the following passage:

The remains of most of the Canadian animals that were overwhelmed in and by the glacial snows were incorporated in the lower, or ground-contact ice of the southward moving sector of the Quebec (Labradorian) ice cap.

The deepest portion of the ice cap was pushed into the deep Ontarian valley and becoming stagnant because of its position and also because of its load of detritus, it served during all the duration of the Quebec glacier as a bridge over which the upper ice, by a shearing flow, passed on south over New York.

This element of glacier mechanics is fundamental to the present explanation of the peculiar distribution of the Elephas remains and is believed to describe the behavior of the continental glacier toward deep and capacious valleys, not only those transverse to the ice flow but also longitudinal valleys…

This statement should be supplemented by Coleman’s remark that a great continental icecap, independently of any valleys, moves only in its upper layers, except at the edges.

The layers near the ground are stagnant.

This is the reason, he says, that the evidences of glaciation are found mostly on the exterior fringes of the area once occupied by the ice sheet.

The central areas escape the grinding and plowing up that leave such evidences in the latter areas.

The usual explanation of this remarkable fact leaves something to be desired.

According to the accepted concept, an ice sheet forms first in a small area, and then spreads out, presumably after it has become thick enough to move outward by the force of gravity.

That means, it seems to me, that all but a small central area should show signs of having been passed over by the glacier.

Yet, according to Coleman, the opposite is the case.

I think our assumption provides a good answer to this problem, for the initial snows, such as we assume may have occurred in Siberia as the result of dust produced by massive outbreaks of volcanism, would cover a considerable area, enclosing the animal remains.

Later, if the ice sheet developed enough to move by gravity, the upper layers would move, leaving a stagnant layer, at least in some places, to protect the animals, and only at the remote fringe or at high points of the area would the now moving icecap containing its load of rocks and pebbles be continuously in contact with the ground.

In Siberia the icecap, if there was one, never grew thick enough to move by gravity.

In North America, on the other hand (at an earlier time), the icecap did grow, until it began to move.

So we may conclude that the animals contained in the great North American icecap were mostly living, at the time they were overwhelmed by the snow, in the places where they are now found.

It would not be wise, of course, to exclude entirely the transportation of animal remains in the ice sheet; very certainly it occurred, and perhaps quite often, but in all probability the vast majority of the animals were in the stagnant ground-contact ice.

We have seen that the animals represented in the collection in the glacier indicate a temperate climate, like that prevailing in New York State today.

Now the final question is, How did these millions of animals, living in a temperate zone, get caught in the ice sheet?

Note that here there is no dispute about the climate at the time the animals were living.

Here the situation is free from the uncertainty surrounding the exact climate in which the Beresovka mammoth lived.

The animals listed above are sufficient in themselves to establish the fact of a temperate climate; however, there is an additional piece of evidence, in the form of a quite fascinating botanical analysis of the contents of a mastodon’s stomach.

Hartnagel and Bishop quote from a report by Dr. J. C. Hunt:

The remains, both of cryptogams and flowering species, were in abundance.

Stems and leaves of mosses were wonderfully distinct in structure, so much so that I could draw every cell.

I even readily detected confervoid filaments, with cells arranged in linear series, resembling species now found in our waters.

Numerous black bodies, probably spores of the mosses, were found in abundance.

Not a fragment of sphagnum was seen in the deposit. I found, however, one fragment of a water plant, possibly a rush, an inch long, every cell of which was as distinct as though growing but yesterday.

Pieces of the woody tissue and bark of herbaceous plants, spiral vessels, etc., were abundant.

Carapaces of Entomostraca were present, but no trace of coniferous plants could be detected.

It hence appears that the animal ate his last meal from the tender mosses and boughs of flowering plants growing on the banks of the streams and margins of the swamps, rather than fed on submerged plants; and it is probable, moreover, that the pines and cedars, and their allies, formed no part of the mastodon’s diet.

Here we see that everything indicates a climate similar to that of New York today.

An interesting point is the difference between the mastodon’s diet indicated here and that indicated in the case mentioned earlier.

Speculation suggests that perhaps the diet in this second case indicates the animal’s preferred diet, or perhaps merely the diet available in the summer, while that in the earlier case, in which twigs were so important, may represent either the winter diet of the mastodon or an emergency diet, the result of the destruction of the normal diet by the events occurring just before the animal’s death.

In any case, the second diet indicates that whatever happened to that mastodon certainly took place in the summer.

Now it is obvious that the arguments used to explain away the evidence of climatic change in Siberia won’t work in New York.

Here there was certainly climatic change, with a vengeance.

The explanation I have offered for the preservation of the Siberian remains will cover both cases.

The great difference between them, aside from the failure of the Siberian ice sheet to develop into a real icecap, consists of the fact that while the melting of the thin Siberian ice sheet left a permafrost in which many remains could be preserved, the melting of the Wisconsin icecap left temperate conditions in which nothing could be preserved except what happened to find itself in bogs.

Thus the great accumulations of bodies, such as are found in Siberia, and such as probably also were piled up by the rushing torrents coming from the melting Wisconsin icecap, simply rotted away and left not a trace behind.

Now that we have satisfactorily established that the mastodons were imprisoned in the Wisconsin icecap itself, it is necessary to add the correction that, despite this, they also survived the ice age, at least in western North America.

Radiocarbon dates from 9,600 to 5,300 years ago have been found for some mastodon remains.

It must be conceded that they may possibly have survived in North America until a much later date than this.

They therefore could have lived in New York State after the ice age and have been caught in bogs.

But they must also have lived in New York State before the ice age and been caught in the icecap, for otherwise their remains would not have been found in so many cases inter-mixed with the glacial materials.

Earth’s Shifting Crust:
A Key to Some Basic Problems of Earth Science
Charles Hutchins Hapgood – 1958 – Pantheon Books

Amazon US:
Amazon UK:

Charles Hutchins Hapgood (1904-1982) was an American college professor and author who became one of the best known advocates of the pseudoarchaeological claim of a rapid and recent pole shift with catastrophic results.

Either way:

American Mastodons lived when the prevailing climate was just like today.

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7 Responses to Alaskan Muck: The Mastodons of New York

  1. CW says:

    Thanks for that amazing tale. A few years ago I lived halfway between Claverack and Cohoes in the Hudson valley of New York, and should have suspected that mastodon remains might be buried beneath my lawn. Geologically, the entire region has the feel of impermanence about it.

  2. Sheila Hendry says:

    Excellent read, thank you again.

  3. Sheila Hendry says:

    ” When found in a bog in Newburgh, New York, the Warren mastodon was still in the position in which it had died: standing upright with its legs thrust forward and its head tilted upward, apparently gasping for air. “

    • malagabay says:

      When found in a bog in Newburgh, New York, the Warren mastodon was still in the position in which it had died some 11,000 years ago: standing upright with its legs thrust forward and its head tilted upward, apparently gasping for air.

      The fossil was discovered in 1845 by a crew digging for peat fuel. Every bone in this mastodon skeleton is real. It was the first complete American mastodon skeleton found in the United States and is still one of the most complete mastodon skeletons known.

      Warren Mastodon
      American Museum of Natural History – Central Park West at 79th Street – New York

      Marl was extensively mined in Central New Jersey as a soil conditioner in the 1800s.

      In 1863, the most common marl was blue marl.

      While the specific composition and properties of the marl varied depending on what layer it was found in, blue marl was generally composed of
      38.70% silicic acid and sand,
      30.67% oxide of iron,
      13.91% carbonate of lime,
      11.22% water,
      4.47% potash,
      1.21% magnesia,
      1.14% phosphoric acid, and
      0.31% sulphuric acid.

      Marl as lacustrine sediment is common in post-glacial lake-bed sediments, often found underlying peat bogs. It has been used as a soil conditioner and acid soil neutralizing agent.

      Marl – Mahmut Mat – Geology Science

  4. This post offers many an alternative view – for the maverick heretic – .

    First re Charles Hapgood. If i recall correctly in book. crustal shift does not effect pole position. On the other hand polar wander, ie the magnetic pole, does not effect the geographical position of countries. However, the change in the geographical pole tilt would effect the climate globally. (I do not recall this being dealt with in Hapgood’s relevant books).

    “”Radiocarbon dates from 9,600 to 5,300 years ago have been found for some mastodon remains.””
    Evidence from megalithic sites point to events that are abrupt, and can be dated. Events are global so parallels of animal ‘collateral damage’ would be found from varied sites. 9600BP is a bit too far for the available data, but, say, ~7700BP and 5500BP were both events of abrupt tilt reduction. Animals caught in the destruction near the arctic circle would see both tectonic convulsions and fast freezing. Then 7200BP and 5200BP were extreme geological events, possibly pushing surface permafrost deep under other different material. So a mechanism for what is described above does exist.
    The mammoths were not the only mammals to suffer misfortune. There were other animals, including humans.

  5. CW says:

    The State of New York is home to a number of geological curiosities, including the “Black Dirt Region” (, the Taconic Orogony ( and the Ellenville Ice Caves ( To what extent, I wonder, did New York’s geological oddities and extinctions influence the culture of those who settled here? Peculiar cults and evangelistic movements flourished in the wilds, including the Mormon religion, which got its start in New York. Mormon founder Joseph Smith began his career by joining with neighbors to engage in “treasure digging,” in which the faithful would search for buried gold and gems. If the diggers were not pure in heart, however, the treasure would recede into the earth ahead of them. Eventually, Smith claimed to have discovered buried “golden plates” with ancient writing that only he could translate. The Mormon church was born. So many cults and sects sprang up in central New York that the area was known as “the burnt-out district,” a term that referred to exhausted faithful torn between competing claims of eternal truth. There was no gold in the ground, but there were bones, lots of them. Was there something about living above the relatively recent remains of mammoths, mastodons, dire wolves, giant beavers, moose-elk, short-faced bears, forest bison, and other extinct species, that inspired early New Yorkers to believe in the glories of a vanished past?

  6. Pingback: Romans in America | Louis Hissink's Crazy World

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