Central Washington University

Ask Wellington: Did a CWU archaeology professor lead a team that helped uncover the bones of a giant woolly mammoth near Selah, WA?

7 Wenas Dig Site

In February 2005, Bronwyn and Douglas Mayo were having a private road constructed on their property north of Selah. Unexpectedly, on a hillside overlooking the Wenas Valley, the construction crew encountered something unusual in the ground—the giant leg bone of a prehistoric mammoth.

As word of the discovery spread, Central Washington University Archaelogy professor Pat Lubinski stepped in to help remove the bone and excavate the site to see what else might be found there.

Between 2005 and 2010, Lubinski led the Wenas Creek Mammoth Field School, which included students as well as CWU and University of Washington paleontology and geology faculty, to excavate the site by hand each summer.

Over the years, teams uncovered a shoulder blade, vertebrae, toe bone fragments and more leg bones on the site, all from a single mammoth. Additionally, researchers found flakes believed to have come from a prehistoric knife.

The latter was important because if a connection could be made between the bones and the flake, it could move back the date of the appearance of humans in the Pacific Northwest by several thousand years.

Carbon dating indicated the fossils, believed to be from a Columbian or woolly mammoth, were between 13,000 and 14,000 years old.

The dig site was closed in 2010 (http://www.cwu.edu/mammoth/dig-now-closed) so researchers could devote their time studying the recovered bones. The closure also ensured the site would remain preserved for future digs, when technology might have advanced.

In 2012, the Wenas Mammoth Foundation was established by local educators and supporters to promote the history and science of the site while preserving it. Additionally, in 2016, the foundation opened the Wenas Mammoth Museum at 1770 S. Wenas Road in Selah, to educate visitors about the discovery and its importance.

Lubinski, who won a Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017, continues to teach at CWU.

So, the answer to the question is true.


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