OU Logo
Oklahoma Archeological Survey
HomeResearchEducationResource ManagementActivitiesStaffOklahoma's Past
 
Spiro Mounds site shell engravingOklahoma's Past
 

Dewey County

Click on Oklahoma map to return to county listings

Dewey County, Oklahoma

The Hanjy Mammoth Site

Aerial photo of Hajny Mammoth site

Aerial photo of Hajny Mammoth site

Some of the most exciting archaeological research being done today concerns the arrival of people into the New World. Through most of the 20th century, archaeologists believed the earliest arrivals occurred some 12,000 years ago. However, recent research has pushed that date back several thousand years, at least.

Mammoths, the prehistoric and now-extinct cousin of the elephant, are the animal most often associated with these early humans. And, in Oklahoma, mammoth bones are not uncommonly found during the building of roads, erosion from creek banks or quarrying operations. When archaeologists inspect these finds, they are always aware of the potential for humans being involved in the death of the mammoths and leaving behind the evidence in the form of spearpoints or other stone tools.

In 1983, farmer-rancher Gary Hajny reported the uncovering of mammoth bones during gravel quarrying on his father's property. The site sits on a terrace of the Canadian River which is about a mile to the west. An archaeologist from the Oklahoma Archeological Survey inspected the bones and noted that they were surrounded by a blue clay which appeared similar to the clay surrounding the Domebo mammoth skeleton, where Clovis hunters butchered the animal some 11,000 years ago.

To better assess whether the Hajny mammoth might have been killed by people, some of the bone and snails collected from the area were sent off for radiocarbon dating. The bone dated to 9,000 years ago while the snails dated to 20,000 years ago. In spite of the 11,000 year difference, the possibility of an early man site could not be ruled out. As a result, the decision to excavate the site was made and excavations began in 1985.

Mammoth tusk exposed during excavation

Mammoth tusk exposed during excavation

Toward the end of the 1985 excavations, a second mammoth was uncovered and so fieldwork was planned for 1986. No evidence of humans was uncovered in the careful excavations. Teeth from the two mammoths were dated to 143,000 years ago and 166,000 years ago. Despite the early age of this site, the research has been useful for scientists who study the past. Each excavation of these ancient environments helps us better understand the conditions in those times and also can be useful in helping future archaeologists understand the processes which affect bones. Detecting the differences between bones broken up by natural weathering or animal scavengers versus bones disturbed by human butchering will be critical in the study of very old sites when the first humans arrived in North America.

The two Hajny mammoths are also interesting in and of themselves. They were both mature adults although the sex of neither individual could be determined. There were several different species of mammoth in North American and these two were either the Imperial or Columbian mammoth or possibly even a species intermediate between the two. The two mammoths died at the site of a natural spring, probably not too far apart in time. Their bones did not lie exposed to the air or to scavengers for very long before they were covered up. However, other mammoths visiting the spring disturbed their bones, crushing some of them and rearranging others. This same behavior has been observed in modern times among African elephants around watering holes.

Although the two Hajny mammoths died over a 100,000 years before the first humans visited Oklahoma, it is likely that their recovery and study will one day help us understand our state's first people as well as its Ice Age elephants!

Ancient spring revealed in profile

Ancient spring revealed in profile

For further reading:

Interdisciplinary Studies of the Hajny Mammoth Site, Dewey County, Oklahoma, by Don G. Wyckoff, Brian J. Carter, Peggy Flynn, Larry D. Martin, Branley A. Branson, and James L. Theler. University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Archeological Survey, SOP 17. 1992

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Dewey County Identified to Time Period

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Dewey County Identified to Time Period


Paleo = ?-8,000 BP / Archaic = 8,000-2,000 BP / Woodland = 2,000-1,000 BP / Village 1000-500 BP
BP (before present)

 
 

graphic decoration

Oklahoma Archeological Survey 111 E. Chesapeake Norman OK 73019-5111 (405)325-7211 Contact Webmaster: archsurvey@ou.edu

Home | Research | Education | Resource Management | Activities | Staff | Oklahoma's Past