Construction workers excavating the site of an expansion project at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium have unearthed what appear to be animal bones that date back to the Ice Age.
“We believe we have an intact femur from a mammoth,” OSU spokesman Steve Clark said Tuesday afternoon. “There also appear to be bones from other species, including possibly a bison and a camel.”
Mark Massari, deputy athletics director, said the bones were found at the site of what will be the future locker room for the Beavers' football team.
"Maybe the archaeologist can tell you if it's good luck," he said.
An OSU archaeologist removed at least one large bone from the site Tuesday afternoon. Nearby on the turf of the field was a pile of dirt removed from the site, which Massari said contained fragments the university was going to let archaeology students sift through.
"They're really giddy because usually when they find these things they have to drive three hours to get to them," he said.
Workers made the initial discovery Monday as they were preparing the site for a planned expansion of the Valley Football Center on the north end of the stadium.
Clark said an OSU professor had examined the find and believes the bones are at least 10,000 years old.
Although construction continued nearby on the site Tuesday afternoon, Clark said the university is treating the area as a paleontological site and has closed off public access to the area to keep it from being disturbed.
“We just need to be very careful about what we’ve found,” Clark said.
Loren Davis, an associate professor of anthropology at OSU, was called to the site to examine the find, the university said in a press release.
“There are quite a few bones, and dozens of pieces,” said Davis. “Some of the bones are not in very good shape, but some are actually quite well preserved."
Davis said there are no human remains at the site. According to OSU, since the find does not appear to involve humans or human artifacts, the bones are not considered part of an archaeological site, nor is the site entitled to any protections under Oregon law.
Davis said the bones were found in an area that could once have been a bog or marsh, and that the discovery of ancient mammal bones is not unusual in the Willamette Valley.
“Animals who were sick would often go to a body of water and die there, so it’s not unusual to find a group of bones like this,” Davis said. “We had all of these types of animals in the Willamette Valley back then.”
Hallie Borgen, who works for the catering service that supplies food for the student-athletes at the Valley Football Center, said she was present around noon Tuesday as student athletes and coaches began to notice the mammoth bone in the construction site.
Borgen, an OSU alumna who has worked at the football facility for almost six years, called witnessing the find one of the top five moments of her life.
"Something so significant was found in what is in my opinion one of the coolest places in the world ... for me it was a very beautiful moment," she said.
She added that coaches and student-athletes were excited about the find.
"How many other universities can say something that amazing was found at their football stadium?" she said.
She also said that the construction crew was being very careful around the site.
"It was very impressive how the construction workers reacted to it," she said.