The rare fossilized skull is part of the FossilWorks display, a laboratory where fossils are painstakingly prepped for research and an eventual installation, museum spokesman
At issue is that the process of removing the fossil from its site at
"They're not digging it up to the point of clearing all the rock away from it," he said of the typically excavation process. "They just want it to where you can transport it."
The discovery of the fossilized skull, which is from a prehistoric elephant-like animals, drew lots of attention from around the globe. Because of the popularity, Gann said, a decision was made to place it in the FossilWorks laboratory, bumping out another fossil.
The other option was to put it in a different prep lab, which is behind closed doors and not visible to museum visitors.
"The thing was so popular we all agreed it would be silly to have it hidden away," he said. "There are constantly people standing in front of the glass, looking at it."
In the FossilWorks room, trained volunteers will free the stegomastodon skull from sand, dirt and other minerals, Gann said.
"After 3 million years, there's a lot of cleaning to be done," he said.
There's also a plaster "jacketing" applied in the field to help protect the fossil that must be removed, Gann said. The process is time-consuming.
"It's usually about two years before anything would even go on display," Gann said.
People wanting to see the stegomastodon as it undergoes prep work can visit the
What's in a name?
Unlike a different recently announced elephant-like fossil found at
It's final destination after the preparation has ended also isn't known, Gann said.
"I don't think anybody has begun to give any serious thought as to where it would end up," he said.
Could the stegomastodon eventually be displayed at
There's support from some residents in that area for it return to the area, said
"We don't really have anything for a display that size," he said.
Still, Hechler said a five- to seven-year goal of the park is to build a new visitors center, and "something like that would be wonderful for it."
Earlier this month, WSMR announced the discovery of a mastodon fossil. Discoverers nicknamed it "Chompers." That specimen -- estimated to be about 30,000 years old -- awaits a full excavation, possibly later this year.
It was a bachelor party that stumbled across the stegomastodon in early June. Since then, another
"It wasn't as significant as the other (find)," he said. "It wasn't in as good of shape."
The tusk was collected by an archeologist from the state parks and an archeologist from the
The lake appears to have been a stegomastodon hot spot.
"Through time, there's been about a half-dozen cases of stegomastodon (found) in that area," he said.
If you go
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