Thursday, October 27, 2011

Beyond the Mammoth Site

I just want to say again how very nice the mammoth site was. The great thing about it is that you can drop by every few years and there will be all kinds of new discoveries. So with that done, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone: catch some older bones and visit a state I'd never been to.

So I went to Nebraska. Let me tell you, there's a whole lot of nothing in the western part of the state. And that's how people like it. If you like grasslands, then you should definitely visit. My objective was the Agate Fossil Beds.

In the 19th century, a rancher noticed a bunch of weird bones on his land and wired some university-guy for help identifying them. The result was pretty stunning. They uncovered a vast array of species from around 19 million years ago. The most numerous of all were at least 30 pony-sized rhino skeletons. They also found 6-foot tall carnivorous pigs, bear-dogs and strange horse-ancestors that had three massive claws on their front hooves. Here some photos:

That's a carnivorous pig and below is the strange horse-ancestor:

And of course, a bear-dog:

One of the bigger mysteries in the area were these spiral formations all over the place. They looked like this:

At first, the experts thought these were left by plants, but soon figured out that they were the burrows of ancient land-beavers known as palaeocastor. It lived some 22 million years ago. These formations were at one time all over the place and were dubbed "the devil's corkscrew" because why not? Here's a picture of an old-timey guy looking at one:

This is what a lot of western Nebraska looks like:

It's all pretty scenic/desolate. Speaking of that, I went back to Hot Spring via South Dakota's Badlands. That's also known as "taking the long way home." The Badlands are these fairly dramatic volcanic(?) formations that rise up all over the place in a large area of SD. At the time I took these, I thought they were pretty awesome, but on further review, they just look like countryside. Well, you be the judge:

So that was the rest of the day. Thanks to another wrong turn, I had to go through Rapid City, otherwise known as "the big city." All in all, it had been a very good foray. There were many bones as well as a healthy dose of Badlands.

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