Ice Age Creature Found in NorCal Artichoke Field - NBC Bay Area

Ice Age Creature Found in NorCal Artichoke Field

Excavation site was a secret until this week



    The remains of massive prehistoric creatures known as 'Megafauna' are unearthed in Castroville. (Published Tuesday, March 29, 2011)

    If you know the Monterey County town of Castroville, you know that it is known for two things: a vegetable and a Hollywood starlet. The vegetable is the artichoke and a festival in its name.  And the starlet is none other than Ms. Marilyn Monroe who was declared the town's first artichoke queen back in the 1940s.

    That could all change thanks to a discovery in an artichoke field a few months ago. 

    Castroville could become the town that helped put a little known prehistoric creature called the Columbian mammoth on the map.

    The Columbian mammoth is a distant cousin of the better-known Woolly mammoth, but that could all change after the experts are done digging in farming community.

    This storyline started back in December when a farmer found a weird formation of pink and white rocks while he was leveling his field for a new planting season.

    Those rocks turned out to be a tusk and a tooth from not one, but two Ice Age creatures. 

    Ever since, that field has been a scientific treasure trove. An excavation team that includes experts from several Bay Area universities has been at the site for a month and has so far uncovered 10 percent of the find, which included an adult and an infant mammoth.
    Columbian mammoths have been found in California before. One was found in Fremont in the 1960s, and most recently in San Jose in 2005, but this is the first one that has been found with hair samples and that means scientist will be able to test its DNA.

    One scientist said the site could mean that history books will have to be rewritten.

    The farmer graciously turned over his land to the experts for now, but says he will need to start planting his artichokes soon and that has the experts working fast.

    As a thank you, the farmer was given the honor of naming the creatures. He chose "Stella" and "Addie."