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Museum To Show Off Thousands Of Bones Unearthed Near Snowmass

Crews Wrap Up Massive Fossil Excavation
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Kirk Johnson, spokesman for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (credit: CBS)

Kirk Johnson, spokesman for the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (credit: CBS)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4/AP) – Crews have recovered nearly 5,000 fossils from a site near Snowmass Village since excavation began last year.

The Denver Museum of Nature & Science has completed its largest-ever excavation at Ziegler Reservoir in the central Colorado mountains. The work on the “Snowmastodon” project began after a bulldozer operator uncovered a bone while working on the expansion.

Scientists say 4,826 bones have been pulled from the site. They include bones from 26 different Ice Age animals, including mastodons, giant bison, a ground sloth, deer, horses, a camel, fish and birds. Crews worked a total of 69 days on the dig and moved 8,000 tons of dirt by shovel.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday helped celebrate the conclusion of the project, saying it has put Snowmass on the worldwide map. He says a friend from London asked him about it.

“So somewhere in Europe word is getting out that there’s been a massive Ice Age discovery in the small town of Snowmass,” Hickenlooper said.

The excavation is ending this week so construction can resume on Ziegler Reservoir. Scientists will remain at the site during the summer to recover any additional fossils.

While scientists must now turn the reservoir back over to contractors they say water will preserve any fossils still in the basin. There are 11 acres yet to explore, meaning they may be back.

“The dam only has 1 to 2 months worth of water in it so in the future if we find there’s a scientific reason to go back in there’s no reason why they can’t drain water out and we can take another slice out of this Ice Age pie,” said museum spokesman Kirk Johnson.

The fossils will be on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science the weekend of July 23 and 24.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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