Mud Lake Site

LITHIC DAMAGE TO BONE

     HISTORY OF THE MUD LAKE SITE

TUSK ANALYSIS

     SITE DESCRIPTION

STAFFING

     PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

PALYNOLOGY, MICRO-FOSSIL AND ENTOMOLOGY

     DATA RECOVERY

CURATION OF RECOVERED SPECIMENS

     DATA INTERPRETATION/RESEARCH

REPORTING AND PUBLISHING OF FINDINGS

     STRATIGRAPHY

SITE SECURITY

     LITHIC RECOVERY

PUBLIC BENEFITS

     BONE AND WOOD DATING

CONCLUSION

Evidence from Purified Collagen Bone tests prove this to be the oldest known site in Kenosha County, WI, and in this part of the United States, pre-dating human inhabitation by 1,200+ years!

HISTORY OF THE MUD LAKE SITE

In January of 1936, a Works Progress Administration (WPA) work crew was channelizing the outflow creek from Mud Lake that connects to Dutch Gap Canal.  When hand ditching across the Joseph Britton farm in the extreme northwest corner of Section 33, the work crew encountered approximately 20 lower front leg and foot bones of a Woolly Mammoth.  The Kenosha Historical Society and the Kenosha Public Museum (Then known as the Kenosha Historical and Art Museum) applied for a federal grant to have the WPA fund and excavate the remaining mammoth skeleton.  The grant was approved by then-President Roosevelt (State WPA number 85089 (303656) Federal Project number O.P 465-53-1-391).  

A dispute arose between the property owner and the museum group when the property owner demanded the sum of $500.00 for an easement to dig.  Five hundred dollars was a large sum of money during the Great Depression, and the project was dropped under advisement from DR. S. A. Barrett of the Milwaukee Public Museum.  Currently, the mammoth bones reside in the Kenosha Public Museum where they continue to raise many unanswered questions.  

 

Four separate AMS testings of the Mud Lake bones revealed that it expired in: 

  1. 13,440 +/- 50 BP in the first test, 

  2. 13, 530 +/- 50 BP in the second test, 

  3. 13,490 +/- 40 BP in the third test, and 

  4. 13,460 +/- 50 BP in the fourth test

These test results prove this mammoth to be the oldest butchered mammoth site in North and South America.  This site holds extremely valuable scientific information, as it would push back the actual time that Paleoindians arrived in the Americas and were killing and butchering mammoths by approximately 1,000 years.


Mr. Greg Chesack holding the ulna and radius  that were part of the mammoth bones recovered in 1936 by the WCC work crew from the Mud Lake ditch.

In 1997, Dan Joyce, the Curator of the Kenosha Public Museum and James Butterbrodt decided to try to locate the rest of the Mud Lake Mammoth skeleton.  The archival research consisted of:

  1. Examining the records of local newspapers,
  2. Reviewing the personal communications in the form of letters of then-U.S. Representative Thomas Amile located in the State Historical Society archives,
  3. WPA project records located in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.,
  4. Documents acquired from the F.D.R. library in St. Josephs, Missouri, and
  5. Correspondence between the Kenosha Historical and Art Museum (later renamed the Kenosha Public Museum) and the Milwaukee Public Museum Director and Curators.

The acquisition of documents describing the site from these sources combined with the personal observations of local amateur archaeologist Phil Sander has led us to the present location.  

Aerial view of the mud lake site with State Highway 45 to the right (East) and County Trunk V above (North).  The ditch dug in 1936 is in the center of the photo.


SITE DESCRIPTION    

The Mud Lake Excavation site is located in the northwest corner of Section 33, 182nd Avenue, Bristol Township, Kenosha County, Wisconsin.  The site consists of the remnants of a glacial lake bed that is now almost completely filled in with organic materials and silt, upon which rests a large mat of cattails.  The site is bordered on two sides by private property, i.e. on the south side by the Cherry Vista subdivision and on the west side by a farm and more of the wetland (privately owned by the farmer).  The northern border is a modern graveyard and the eastern border is the roadbed of U.S. Highway 45.  Running through the site and under the Highway 45 roadbed is the remains of the original ditch cut by the WPA in 1936.  

Over the years the ditch has become filled with silt and organic debris.  Presently the ditch is approximately eight feet wide at its eastern end and tapers up at its western end to the point of becoming non-discernable in a wall of solid cattails.  When the ditch was originally cut, the historic record states that its depth was excavated to a depth of four feet. At the present time, the ditch is (depending on the time of year) approximately .70 meters deep at the eastern end and gradually tapers up to dry land at its western end.  These observations are for the yearly average.  During the spring months the water level exceeds the ditchís carrying capacity, while during the summer and fall months the ditch can become dry land.  Vegetation at the site consists of almost entirely cattails, with a few willow trees. The soil stratigraphy consists of a surface mat of cattails overlying a layer of peat approximately .70 meter in thickness at the site's eastern edge.  This peat layer thickens to approximately 1.4-1.7 meters in depth at the western end of the ditch.  Under this peat layer is a 15-20 cm layer of gravel and unfractured glacial cobbles.  Under this layer of glacial rock is a layer of blue/gray colored clay approximately .70 m thick.  It is on the surface of this lacustrine clay that we found numerous snail shells and various sized samples of wood.  This blue lacustrine clay changed to a tan/yellow color as we progressed deeper.  The thickness of this yellow clay layer is undetermined at this time, as we stopped sampling when we reached approximately 1.7m in depth.  

As the historical description and newspaper accounts of the time stated, the mammoth bones were located at a depth of 1.4m, and rested on and slightly in the clay layer.  It is at this depth that we will focus our attention.  As this is a low energy depositional locality, should we encounter one of the remaining mammoth bones, the rest will be in close proximity.

The center of the ditch is the property line of the two parcels of property purchased in August of 1997 (approximately 7.5 acres).  After securing permission from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to use an eight inch post hole digger, I set out with a close friend, Greg Chesack, to find the clay layer at the east end of the ditch that the historical record claimed was under a three foot layer of peat.  The first test pit was started at a pre-selected spot on the north side of the ditch at its eastern end.  At approximately the .90m level we hit the clay layer.  Moving 5m to the west, our second test produced the same results at a depth of 1 m. Moving west another 5m, our third hole produced a surprise when a large mastodon tooth was recovered.  The mastodon tooth, like the 21 mammoth leg and foot bones recovered from the site in 1936 was in an excellent state of preservation due to the anaerobic conditions present in the peat and clay layer substrate.  This discovery raises the possibilities of 1) This site may contain multiple Pleistocene age mammals, and/or 2) we may have to excavate the remains of a mastodon as well.  The current plans for the Mud Lake site are to begin excavation in the summer of 2003.

Click on the image to enlarge

Jim Butterbrodt holding the mastodon tooth located in 1997 adjacent to the Mud Lake ditch.


PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

During Phase I of the project, we would begin with the installation of the access road on the north boundary of the property, beginning with the placement of a culvert pipe and fill to gain access from Highway 45.  (Note: We have received a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation for the culvert placement and fill).  A gravel drive will be installed on top of what was once the old roadbed of Highway 45.  This driveway would lead to a small gravel parking area.  Plastic sedimentation fencing will be placed on the down-slope side of the parking area, driveway and culvert to prevent sediments from entering the wetland area.  The placement of the driveway and parking area is outside the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources boundary of the wetland area.  This driveway and parking area are vital to the project in order to remove the excavated materials.  Additionally, this parking area would provide parking for the workerís vehicles, thus keeping them from parking on the shoulder of Highway 45 and creating a safety hazard.

Once the driveway is in place, we will bring in an excavator to cut a new ditch that will start at the east end of the existing ditch at its juncture with the right-of-way boundary of Highway 45 and proceed in a northwest direction following the current wetland boundary.  As the material is excavated, it will be placed into waiting trucks being monitored to insure that any bones of a Pleistocene animal will not be overlooked.  If by chance bones are uncovered, we would immediately stop the project to continue to excavate by hand.  Should the new ditch excavation proceed northwestward to the junction of the large pond and nothing be encountered, we will then place erosion matting around its banks and seed it with various wetland plants with an emphasis on plants that are beneficial to wildlife (per DNR approved list).  Currently, the diversity of wetland plants in the excavation area is limited to a large mat of cattails.

Phase II of this project consists of placing two temporary wood and plastic barriers at the east end of the ditch and the west end of the ditch in the area we are interested in.  A small settling pond with plastic liner will be excavated between the new and existing ditch for the purpose of pumping water out of the old ditch and allowing any sediments to settle out and clear before it is pumped into the new ditch.  We propose during Phase II to excavate by hand all the sediment that has accumulated over the years from the old ditch.  This sediment (as well as all excavated material) would be removed to an area outside the wetland boundary.  It is our hope that once this sediment is removed, we would likely encounter the remaining woolly mammoth bones.  Should the bones be located (and historical information does not tell us which side of the ditch - north or south) we would then begin a block excavation along either side of the ditch.  The excavation area could be as large as 40 x 40 feet, depending on how far Paleoindians scattered the bones.

Should nothing be encountered, our plan is then to excavate to the same depth as the original old ditch a five-foot strip on both the north and south sides of the ditch between the barriers.  At this point, should nothing be located after widening the existing ditch, the banks of the existing ditch would be matted to control erosion and seeded with wetland plants that are beneficial to wildlife.  Both temporary barriers would be removed and water flow allowed to resume through the original ditch and the new ditch.  Additionally, the plastic liner from the settling pond would be removed (Note: Should we locate any bone piles during the course of this project, we have purchased two water pumps.  Should they not be adequate for water removal from the excavation/bone site, we would then have to install a plastic liner around the site.  Standard wet excavation techniques will be followed throughout this phase.  Upon completion of this project, the liner would be removed.  The culvert, driveway and parking area would remain.


DATA RECOVERY

Methods employed for data recovery at this site will include, but is not limited to, standard archaeological datum lines plotted both horizontally and vertically and referenced off of a nearby section marker.  Detailed site mapping with two-dimensional hard copy and three-dimensional computer simulation, contextual mapping, photographing and daily video taping (note: we have agreed to allow a video documentary to be produced during the excavation process).  We will be using standard archaeological retrieval methods, i.e. plotting, mapping, photographing, etc.  As these bones have been under water for 13,500 years, the excavation site will be back-flooded nightly to keep the bones inundated and secure from vandals.  As these bones are removed, they will be kept in a wet state until replacing the water volume of the bones with conservationally appropriate consolidants properly treats the bones.

Remote sensing: We plan to use a new type of ground-penetrating radar that appears to work well in wet substrates.  In using remote sensing equipment at this site, we are hopeful we can develop a new type of "signature" that could become beneficial to future excavations when a similar condition exists in a "wet" environment.  Mechanical excavation will be employed in the removal of the over burden in the new bypass ditch, with hand shoveling being employed should we encounter any Pleistocene mammal remains. During excavation of the old ditch, excavation by hand will be the only method employed.  Mechanical excavation of the new ditch will be closely monitored as it is being cut, with additional monitoring of excavated material as it is being dumped into waiting trucks, with additional monitoring at the disposal site.  Wood samples found in the clay layer will be bagged for species identification.  All wood found in close proximity to any bones will be bagged for later radiocarbon dating and species determination.  Constant volume sedimentological soil samples will be collected for palynology, macro-fossil, entomology and mineral content.  Samples of bulk organic and sediment deposits will be collected in 20cm increments from multiple columns with the location and vertical position plotted and photographed.

Click on the image to enlarge

We mowed approximately 150 square yards of cattails and set up a grid pattern to enable locating anomalies  present with ground penetrating radar.

Tom Loebel, Ph.D Candidate, University of Illinois Chicago Circle and his assistant using ground penetrating radar.

Dr. Robert Hasenstab, Professor at University of Illinois Chicago Circle checking the reading on the ground penetrating radar.  The results will be imported into a 3D format and analyzed for further study.  Two large anomalies were found.

DATA INTERPRETATION/RESEARCH

Interpretation at the Mud Lake site will require an interdisciplinary approach to maximize data recovery and produce the type of results that will benefit the public, as well as current and future researchers in the field of Paleo-Indian archaeology.  As these new Paleo-Indian sites are discovered in southeast Wisconsin they push back the time line that humans entered the Americas.  We realize our responsibility to be as meticulous as possible in our approach in the recovery, preservation, data acquisition, and interpretation at this site. This is essential given the close scrutiny the information from this site will undergo when presented to the archaeological community.


STRATIGRAPHY

The project geomorphologist will be responsible for the documentation and mapping of the site stratigraphy, using a site specific and regional context approach.  He will reconstruct the depositional history of the site and document the relationship between the mammoth bones and surrounding soil substrates.  As he has performed this work at the Schaefer and Hebior sites, he brings to this project a geographical approach that may have the potential of using depositional modeling in the location of future mammoth kill sites.


LITHIC RECOVERY

Should lithics be successfully recovered at this site, after contextual mapping, plotting and photographing, the items will be catalogued and bagged in an unwashed state for later testing of surface and microcrack retention of proteins and mitochondrial DNA.  All stone tools will be analyzed for microwear patterns and to identify the materialís geographical origins.


BONE AND WOOD DATING

As previously stated, two bone dates have already been run on the 21 leg and foot bones in the possession of the Kenosha Public Museum.  These tests produced dates of 13,440 +/- 60 BP and 13,530 +/- 50 BP.  Presently, the Kenosha Public Museum has submitted four more samples for dating, bringing the total of bone dates from this site to six.  Should the remaining bones be recovered from this site, we will in all probability run a minimum of two more dates.  If during the excavation of this site we recover the remains of a mastodon or any other late Pleistocene/Early Holocene mammals, they will be dated as well.  Wood found in association with any skeletal remains will be tested using standard 14C radiocarbon dating.

Mammoth bones that are recovered will be tested using the AMS XAD-Gelatin (KOH-Collagen) protocol developed by Dr. Thomas Stafford.  The use of these dating techniques will provide continuity as all previous dates on the Mud Lake, Schaefer, Hebior, and Fenske bone samples were run using this methodology.  These dating techniques are currently widely accepted by the archaeological community for their level of accuracy in bone collagen dating.  All new tests run on materials recovered from the Mud Lake site will be performed by Dr. Thomas Stafford. Dr. Staffordís work brings to this project a familiarity and consistency as well as the accuracy of his testing methods and techniques that are regarded by the archaeological community as "state of the art" and are virtually unchallengeable.

Recently Daniel Joyce removed two cores directly from the Mud Lake mammoth radius and sent them to Stafford Research Laboratories for chemistry and then to Lawrence Livermore Laboratories for the AMS processing.  The resulting dates were 13,460+/-50 RCYBP and 13,490+/-40 RCYBP.  These dates are extremely consistent with the previous dates published above.


LITHIC DAMAGE TO BONE

Dr. Eileen Johnson will conduct the interpretation and documentation of possible lithic damage to bone surfaces. Dr. Johnsonís past work analyzing the mammoth bones from the Schaefer, Fenske, Mud Lake and Hebior sites brings continuity to the project. Dr. Johnson concluded in her recently completed report on these four sites that the damage to the bone surfaces could only be attributed to the use of stone tools during the butchering process by Paleoindians. Her conclusion confirms earlier observations by Joyce and Wasion.  Dr. Johnsonís work in analyzing alterations to bone surfaces is considered unequaled in her field.


TUSK ANALYSIS

During this excavation, should any mammoth or mastodon tusks be recovered in a state of excellent preservation, they will be shipped to Dr. Daniel Fischer of the University of Michigan to be sectioned for analysis of tusk growth and age, (at the time of death) seasonality and life history. By studying growth ring patterns, Dr. Fischer can establish the reproductive history, and dietary history both during its life and at the time of its death. The recovery of this data will provide additional information for researchers to improve their data base of climatic conditions and the relationship between the availability of food sources and mammoth growth rates in this area.


STAFFING

Dan Joyce, the curator and archaeologist for the Kenosha Public Museum, will direct and lead the Mud Lake excavation once bones are located and donated. He will be assisted by fellow archaeologist Ruth Blazina-Joyce. Mr. Dave Wasion with excavation experience at both the Schaefer and Hebior sites will be working on the site as well. We presently have commitments from a geoarchaeologist and a geologist for their assistance with this project, as well as members of the Kenosha County Archaeological Society and student volunteers to provide additional labor.


PALYNOLOGY, MICRO-FOSSIL AND ENTOMOLOGY

Should the remaining mammoth bones be recovered from this site all soil within close proximity to the bone pile will be collected by hand and placed into sealed clear plastic bags and stored in 5-gallon buckets with lids. It is planned that this material along with additional soil samples will be analyzed for the recovery of this information which will provide researchers with a clearer picture of the environment, biodiversity and climatic conditions in southeast Wisconsin 13,500 years ago.

CURATION OF RECOVERED SPECIMENS

This will be the responsibility of the Kenosha Public Museum, who will have control of the preservation, display and storage of the Mud Lake Mammoth bones and any stone tools recovered from this site, with the understanding that future researchers will be provided free access to all materials removed from this project site.


REPORTING AND PUBLISHING OF FINDINGS

Data reporting will follow the guidelines set forth and outlined by the Wisconsin Archaeological Survey. Mr. Joyce will be responsible for the reporting and publishing of all compiled data. Periodic and/or quarterly updates will be made available to interested parties and agencies. All data compiled for publishing will be peer-reviewed prior to its release.


SITE SECURITY

Should the mammoth remains be located and excavation started, on-site security will be accomplished using a variety of methods, such as:

1) No trespassing signs,

2) Back-flooding the site nightly,

3) Additional night patrols by the Kenosha County Sheriffs Department, and

4) Hiring and posting of a night watchman.  

Any person found on the property without permission from Mr. Joyce or Mr. Butterbrodt will be prosecuted for trespassing. This will be vigorously enforced with the following exceptions: WDNR personnel and county inspectors with appropriate credentials.


PUBLIC BENEFITS

The local and regional media have followed the Mud Lake Project with keen interest since its inception. This activity on the part of the media will be encouraged for the public benefit. Thus far, the media attention has resulted in a positive benefit to the project, with commitments of labor, funding, equipment, and services that have greatly reduced the projects overall costs.

The citizens of Kenosha County are fascinated with the mammoths found in their county. The reasons are due to: 1) the fact that for now, Kenosha County is the oldest site of human habitation in the Western Hemisphere, and 2) this discovery is not a new and important paleontological/archaeological find in some remote location like the Gobi Desert. Instead, it is a find that is not only important from both a paleontological and archaeological point of view that just so happens to be set among the rolling farmland and subdivisions of their own backyards. The number of "armchair archaeologists" in this and probably all areas is staggering. I believe this interest in the past should be encouraged and fostered. This process can be accomplished should the remaining bones of the Mud Lake Mammoth be unearthed as a result of this project. The excavation can be used as a teaching tool by bringing in interested groups such as school groups and Boy/Girl Scouts. Hopefully, these tours will provide not only information on basic excavation techniques, but may provide a "spark" that may lead to a life-long interest in the paleo-or archaeological fields. Public lectures, teacher in-service programs, and museum exhibit are additional planned public benefits. The amount of public access to the site will be up to the discretion of the excavation leader, Mr. Joyce. All workers and most visitors will be required to join the Kenosha County Archaeological Society. This requirement is due to liability reasons. Exceptions will be made for WDNR, County personnel, school groups, etc., at our discretion.


CONCLUSION

The relocation and excavation of the Mud Lake Mammoth will provide the public and scientific community with invaluable information on the interaction between Paleoindians and Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene-age megafauna. Along with this are additions to our knowledge of climatic conditions and bio-diversity at the end of the Ice Age. The physically negative activities impacting what is now a marginal wetland will be more than offset by the positive results at the completion of the project. This includes but is not limited to more water retention at the site and increases in both diversity of wetland plant species, and wildlife species. This, combined with a future agreement at the end of the project with the WDNR of donating this wetland into their inventory, will provide for future site protection. This project possesses the technical expertise, funding, staffing and logistical infrastructure to produce the desired maximum extraction of data and specimen retrieval with emphasis placed on retrieval methodology that will withstand close scrutiny.

Fortunately, this project has broad-based community support, and is being observed with keen interest by national paleontologists and archeologists who are eagerly anticipating the results of the knowledge gained by the Mud Lake Mammoth Project.

©2000 - 2004 Butterbrodt/Joyce

 

 

All information and photographs copyrighted - illegal to copy without permission.