The Farview Mastodon

What you see pictured here is actually a resin cast of a fully articulated mastodon. This cast and the skeletal remains from the Farview Mastodon are presently exhibited on the Second Floor of Bausch Hall. Rather than mounting the actual mastodon fossil, which requires drilling out parts of the bone and partially destroying part of the specimen, the museum staff chose a mounted cast while displaying the bones on a series of platforms.

Dr. Daniel Fisher, University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, examines one of the Farview Mastodon's teeth. Fisher, considered to be among the leading authorities on mastodon bone morphology, is conducting a detailed analysis of the skeleton.

The present-day chapter of the Farview Mastodon's story began in January, 1991 during preparations for the site of the Farview Golf Course and Country Inn on NY Route 39 in Avon, Livingston County. Construction workers using earth-moving equipment to deepen a pond for use as a water hazard turned up what was first thought to be a boulder. It was, in fact, a skull and a rib and vertebra soon followed. The pieces were relegated to a barn, and a curious neighbor called Dr. George C. McIntosh, RMSC geology curator (McIntosh is now RMSC Director of Collections). Intrigued, McIntosh pursued the lead with the help of Dr. James Scatterday, a SUNY Geneseo professor who later led the excavation.

A right femur belonging to the 11,600-year-old Farview mastodon fossil, examined by Dr. George McIntosh, RMSC Director of Collections.

Once the construction workers and landowners understood the importance of the find, events happened quickly. "Within two weeks we began to excavate the rest of the animal," says McIntosh, "and I can say that we were not disappointed. The individual bones were almost completely intact and in excellent condition."

To find out more about the Farview Mastodon, as it is now known, McIntosh called another colleague, University of Michigan paleontologist Dr. Dan Fisher, a leading authority on mastodons. Through extensive studies of mastodon tooth and bone morphology, Fisher learned much about the specimen. For example, the distribution of bones and the presence of tool marks indicates the mastodon probably did not die of natural causes leading Fisher to believe that the animal was probably killed and butchered by Paleo-Indians. Fisher theorizes that the animal was killed in the Fall for food and shelter with sections of the carcass cached in the pond for cold storage throughout the Winter and early Spring.

A team of scientists have participated in the Farview mastodon study, including Dr. James Scatterday of SUNY Geneseo (pictured at the excavation site, Avon, NY, January 1991).

During its lifetime, the Farview mastodon stood over eight feet tall at the shoulder and weighted approximately six tons. A set of newly erupted molars places its age at 25 to 30 years, the prime of life for a mastodon. The size of the tusk cavities in the skull indicates that this specimen was male. Fisher continues to analyze the mastodon's teeth and a three and one-half foot section of what was a seven to nine foot tusk. By carefully examining yearly and two-week growth bands in the tusk, Fisher will be able to determine the animal's age and the time of year when it died. Further examination of the bands will hopefully reveal a variety of other milestones in the mastodon’s life.

The Farview mastodon was added to the RMSC
collection in 1993.