Mastodon in the Park

Ten-thousand years gone,
thru tar and muck have they come.
Bully! Mastodon.

                                          --David Ratowitz*

In the greater Chicago area, two life-sized statues direct our attention back ... to the mastodon that roamed Illinois and neighboring midwestern lands more than 11,000 years ago.

Mastodons roamed North America from at least 3.75 million to 11,000 years ago.

Philips Park in Aurora (a western suburb of Chicago) is home to the above animated form because mastodon bones were discovered there on March 7, 1934.

The discovery of the 92 pound lower jaw of a mastodon is depicted in this sculpture by Erik Blome.

A second statue nearby illustrates how these bones were found.  They were unearthed when Civil Works Administration workers were employed, during the Great Depression by Roosevelt’s New Deal program, to dig a basin for a lake.  The accompanying plaque for the bronze reads:

The bones are estimated to be between 14,000 and 10,000 years old.

The American mastodon was a distant relative of the elephant. It was an herbivore that fed on trees and lived in wetlands.  

This approachable mastodon in Aurora shows us that mastodons stood 7 to 10 feet high and weighed between 4 to 6 tons, slightly smaller than modern day elephants.

Early caveman and his dog encounter a mastodon in Aurora!

Mastodon remains that date between 40,000 and 11,000 years old have been found all over the Midwest.
Philips Park in Aurora isn’t the only Illinois site to raise a monument illustrating this fascinating history.  Lake County, Illinois (north of Chicago) also boasts a life-sized mastodon statue to commemorate Lake County discoveries that occurred on three separate occasions, in the years 1876, 1925, and 1992.

Scientists estimate that mastodons became extinct some 11,000 years ago.  Theories that explain their demise include climate change, habitat loss, disease and extinction from human hunting.

So, for an interesting field trip this year, consider visiting the Philips Park Visitors Center and Mastodon Gallery and/or the Lake County Discovery Museum for outdoor activity, artifact viewing, and the irresistible, corny photo-op.  It'll add some perspective to your life!

With Pablo who was looking for bones!

*Thank you to David Ratowitz for the haiku!

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