Shaggy-haired ancestors of today’s elephants, mastodons once roamed North America including what is now Indiana. One of those prehistoric creatures came out of hiding in 1976 when a Hancock County farmer discovered some large rib bones and teeth while excavating for a pond. He called Indiana University and soon paleontologists confirmed that the remains were of a mastodon.
Careful excavation of the field yielded even better news—the skeleton of a second mastodon, along with those of ancient caribou, a turtle, fish, and rodents, all estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old. The Children’s Museum and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis were designated as recipients of the dig’s discoveries, as well as the institutions responsible for cleaning and preserving them.
Between 1976 and 1979 more than 100 museum volunteers help excavate, clean, and preserve the two mastodon skeletons. One was about 70 percent intact, allowing the remainder of its bones to be cast in resin so a complete skeleton could be assembled. It went on display in the museum in 1980 and has been popular ever since. Today it’s on Level 4 near the elevators.