Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM


SCOTT, Eric, San Bernardino County Museum, 2024 Orange Tree Lane, Redlands, CA 92374 and SPRINGER, Kathleen B., Division of Geological Sciences, San Bernardino County Museum, 2024 Orange Tree Lane, Redlands, CA 92374,

The Snowmastodon Site in Pitkin County, Colorado was the focus of intensive paleontological exploration between November 2010 and July 2011. During this time, thousands of vertebrate fossils from the later Pleistocene were recovered from two separate faunal zones spanning tens of thousands of years. The timing of excavation activities was tightly constrained due to construction schedules and local winter weather conditions. Despite the brevity of the excavation, the Snowmastodon Site nevertheless yielded one of the most significant Pleistocene vertebrate faunas known from Colorado and the Rocky Mountains region.

The Snowmastodon excavation is not an isolated instance of time-sensitive salvage paleontology, however. Other large-scale paleontological excavations conducted under restricted time schedules, often in a construction context, have also yielded significant vertebrate fossil assemblages. For example, construction of the Diamond Valley Lake reservoir outside of Hemet, California from 1993 through early 2000 resulted in the identification of over 100,000 identifiable fossils representing more than 105 vertebrate, invertebrate and plant taxa from more than 2,600 discrete localities. While this project spanned several years, individual localities – some consisting of multiple individuals of several large mammal species, along with microvertebrate and invertebrate remains – were often excavated in very short spans of time. More recently, construction adjacent to California’s Rancho La Brea “tar pits” in 2006 resulted in the discovery of sixteen new asphaltic fossil concentrations, many containing thousands of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils. In this case, excavation practices normally employed at Rancho La Brea were not suited to the construction context. Rather, time constraints necessitated complete removal of the deposits rather than in situ excavation, with detailed work postponed until after construction. These excavations continue today.

The Diamond Valley Lake and Rancho La Brea excavations share numerous facets with the Snowmastodon Site project. The focus on speed of excavation, accuracy of contextual data recordation, and conducting detailed work in the lab rather than in the field are hallmarks of each of these successful, time-constrained paleontological projects.