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Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons

It’s amazing to think a massive sheet of ice once covered Indiana, and most of North America, over 80,000 years ago. Even more amazing is what lay preserved beneath this massive ice sheet.


Mammoths and Mastodons fossils have been found on every continent except Australia and South America. Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons, showcases real mounted skeletons and casts of Ice Age animals found at various dig sites throughout Indiana, plus much more. The exhibition runs now through Aug. 17, 2014 at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis.

The exhibition, which is divided into 6 different sections, attempts to shed light on these prehistoric animals and the conditions that may had led to their extinction, as well as the science and techniques used to recover, analyze and classify their remains.

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Section 1 takes a look at the history archeological discoveries in Indiana, and the excitement that inevitably ensues within the local community in which the discovery is made.

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Section 2 features a recreation of an actual dig site in northern Indiana in which the remains of a mastodon were found. Tools used in the discovery process, such as surveying and mapping rigs, buckets, shovels, hoses pumping water, water screening, and even sound effects, all contribute to the authenticity of the recreation. The Interactive Dig Pit allows kids to play paleontologist and uncover bones.

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Section 3 looks at the science behind, and study of, the fossil remains. The process of determining the exact type and age of the bones is a necessary step toward piecing together a picture of not only the animal, but the environmental conditions in which the animal lived.

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Section 4, entitled “Hall of Giants,” is a must-see presentation of skeletal remains mounted in “filet” fashion, with bones spread along a flat, vertical surface.

Section 5 asks, “What Happened?” The question of Mammoths went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago has been the subject of intense speculation. Theories have posited everything from predatory factors to disease and even climate changes.

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Finally, Section 6, entitled “Tusk to Tusk,” features two full-size mounts, one a mammoth and the other a mastodon. The true grandeur of these Indiana giants is something that must be seen in-person to be fully appreciated. It’s not hard to imagine the trembling of the ground as these 3-ton beasts roared and thundered their way across the land.

Event Info

  • What: Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons
  • When: Now through Aug. 17, 2014
  • Where: Indiana State Museum, 650 W Washington St, Indianapolis
  • Website

Mike Woods