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Bone Pit Gawking Enjoys Mammoth Resurgence

People have stared at bones in pits ever since there have been bone pits old enough for detached viewing. Yet in recent years it has become an uncertain, even discouraged, activity.

Indian burial pits that had been attractions in places such as Salina, Kansas, and at the Fountain of Youth in Florida were reburied under government orders decades ago. The non-Indian skeletons under the floor at Moran’s Art Studio in Louisiana ceased to be an attraction when the studio blew away in a 2005 hurricane. The fossil pit at the Dinosaur National Monument Visitor’s Center in Utah became off-limits when the building began to collapse.

Even bones dumped into a big pile were eventually no longer tolerated as gawk-able.

However the skeletal pendulum seems to be swinging back — at least as long as what’s being looked at are the bones of mammoths.

The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, South Dakota, declares itself A National Natural Landmark and calls tourists to “experience an active paleontological dig site to view Ice Age fossils exhibited as they were unearthed.” In other words, to stare at bones in a pit.

The Dallas News reported that a “climate-controlled pavilion” is being built over a five-acre Mammoth excavation near Waco, Texas. The site has been known since 1978, but only now is it being opened to the public. Do the pit-packagers know something that we don’t?

Maybe mammoths’ star has risen because they are a safely extinct constituency. But maybe they’re also a toe-bone in the sinkhole. If these new pits succeed — or at least don’t succumb to calamity — then there are plenty of other dead things to unearth, and they may once again shake off their dirt and greet the eyeballs of a curious public.

Sections: Attraction News, Rants 1 Comment »

One Response to “Bone Pit Gawking Enjoys Mammoth Resurgence”

  1. Laird Carter Says:
    September 15th, 2008 at 9:18 am

    In 2000 and 2007 when we took our Boy Scout troop on trips to the Black Hills, we visited the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. The boys enjoyed it and it was very educational. During the summer (when we went) they have a few weeks when you can view the paleontologists actually working on the site uncovering more bones, which the boys really enjoyed seeing. Besides 55 mammoth skeletons they have skeletons of a giant short-faced bear, camel, llama and other ice-age animals.

    We used to have the same educational “in situ” skeleton viewing at Dickson Mounds State Park here in Illinois, which was an early Native American burial mound, but present-day Native Americans objected and the skeletons were covered up and are no longer on view. Since there are no present-day mammoths to object, the Mammoth Site doesn’t have to worry about that.

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