Ice Age history frozen in time at dig near Snowmass Village





This place is a pit. A giant, oozing, squishy bog of malodorous peat, sticky clay and mud that can suck the boots off your feet. But for anyone looking for a spot where everything went right for paleontology and posterity, it is here at Ziegler Reservoir.

For two weeks, Denver Museum of Nature & Science crews have been pulling out treasures: five or more mastodons, a bison skull with 7-foot horn span, a couple of Columbian mammoths, a giant Jefferson ground sloth (the state's first), complete deer with antlers, salamanders, snails, two more bison β€” a "prehistoric zoo," as local headlines read.

As of last week, diggers had found more than 200 bones. One expert estimated that tusks and other pieces of perhaps a dozen mastodons are at the site, prompting Johnson to quip the nearby ski village should be renamed "Snowmastodon."

This place will tell scientists a great deal about the last Ice Age in the Rockies. It also could contribute to knowledge about our future, Johnson said, by revealing how animals respond when climate rapidly warms and changes.

The stunning abundance of bones here was made possible in large part because this ancient watering hole sits at the top of a hill. Most lakes don't.

This high-altitude lake, really a geological accident, filled up very slowly with layer after layer of wind-blown sediment β€” over many tens of thousands of years β€” preserving an entire Ice Age ecosystem and specimens that Colorado schoolchildren will be queuing up to see for generations to come....





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