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The Mammoth Site
Hot Springs, SD



The Mammoth Site is an extraordinary location which has been yielding Pleistocene fossils since the early 1970s. The site is a prehistoric sinkhole that was fed by artesian-fed spring waters which attracted wildlife. It is believed that the steep sides of the sinkhole prevented wildlife from climbing out of the water, most likely resulting in death from starvation or exhaustion. Both Woolly and Columbian Mammoths have been found, along with camels, llamas, short-faced bear, wolves, coyotes, birds, minks, ferrets, prairie dogs and voles. Invertebrates like clams, snails and slugs have also been excavated. 

What to Expect:


Over the course of four weeks each year, the Ice Age Explorers Program at The Mammoth Site offers 8 participants per week the opportunity to be a part of active excavations. Dig weeks are Monday to Friday, with lunch provided. Weekends are on your own. During each week, participants will excavate in the Bonebed, screenwash excavated sediments, contribute to Bonebed mapping and work in the research lab on a variety of projects including sorting and prepping bones, 3D Scanning and 3D Printing work in the molding and casting laboratory.


The first few days of excavation will be devoted to proper excavation training techniques, how to use of tools and how to move safely through the Bonebed. Participants will then be assigned to a variety of tasks including the excavation of new areas, flattening pathways, detailing bones or preparing bones for removal. Although the site is very rich in fossils, there is never a guarantee that each participant will find a fossil on their own. This is simply the nature of paleontology. However, each participant’s work will contribute to the ongoing research and preservation work of The Mammoth Site.

Click here for more details on what to expect on a paleontology dig. 


If you are in need of accommodations, The Mammoth Site will make arrangements at a cost of an additional $600.00 per week. Dinner is also available for an additional $150.00 per week.

What to Bring:

The Mammoth Site is fully covered with air conditioning; however, temperatures can still vary in the summertime. Long pants are always a good idea for working in the field and baseball cap is handy to keep the dust out. Closed, comfortable shoes or boots are also suggested. All tools and training are provided. 


Dr. Jim Mead
The Mammoth Site

  1. What makes The Mammoth Site significant?
    ​The Mammoth Site is significant because of not only the number of mammoth skeletons (61 excavated and many more to be discovered based on sinkhole depth) but the climatic data that surrounds them. Mammoths entered the site during a glacial episode.

  2. What has been most surprising about your discoveries at this location?
    The most surprising new find is the fact that the sinkhole was slowing infilling with mammoths, a few other mammals, and sediments for at least 100,000 years going from an interglacial climate through a glacial episode and back into yet another interglacial. 

  3. What are your current research objectives at your site? 
    With 100,000 years of layered sediments, we have each layer to analyze for climate information – this is on-going now and preliminary results are proving to be extremely promising and exciting.  If the mammoths entered the sinkhole only during the cold-wet glacial episode, what was happening in and around the site during the two interglacial episodes?!  We need to determine this!

  4. What was most important or rewarding find at this site?
    The most rewarding aspect of the site is the fact that we can preserve the mammoths and sediments in place (in the building) and slowly and carefully study both in detail and as new analysis technologies emerge.  As we conduct the research, all this is readily available to the public as education and outreach. The story is not over yet – it continues to emerge all the time….each year we work in the Bonebed.

All the digs featured on Ancient Odysseys are non-profits and rely upon visitors and donations to continue their important scientific work. Please consider donating if you would like to support this organization's mission. All donations are tax deductible.

Fossils found:   
Mammoths, Giant Short-Faced Bear, Camel, Llama and many other species
Period: Pleistocene

2023 Dates
1 week/Monday-Friday
Week 1: June 5-June 9
Week 2: June 12-June 16
Week 3: June 19-June 23
Week 4: June 26-June 30
Space is limited to 8 people per week


Clicking the above link will take you directly to this dig's booking page


Participation is subject to availability and is at the full discretion of the dig location. Prices and dates dates subject to change. 

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