CORVALLIS - Archaeologists from Oregon State University will team with workers from the City of Woodburn this week to search for evidence of a rich deposit of Ice Age animal remains discovered near Mill Creek in the 1980s.
The project is being coordinated by the Center for the Study of the First Americans at OSU, in cooperation with the City of Woodburn and Woodburn High School. The site is on high school property.
On Thursday, city workers will use backhoes to carefully begin a deep extraction of dirt, retracing the utility route workers used nine years ago when the site was discovered. Along with rock and silt deposits, workers in 1987 uncovered evidence of numerous extinct paleontological animals, including mammoth, mastodon, bison, ground sloth, wolf, bear and horse remains.
For a variety of reasons - including a lack of funding - the site was never developed, though scientists say it may be "one of the richest deposits of Ice Age animals in Oregon."
"The animal remains were all found in a black, organic muck," said Rob Bonnichsen, director of OSU's Center for the Study of the First Americans. "They should be in an anaerobic - oxygen free - environment and have the potential for being preserved in mint condition."
The backhoes will carefully scoop out dirt until scientists locate the remains, according to Chuck Hibbs, one of the archaeologists leading the project. "We know roughly where they are - within 100 meters or so," he said.
A team of archaeologists will be ready to process any samples that are found. OSU researchers also will be looking for Ice Age hair samples to continue their work of extracting ancient DNA from archaeological sites.
If this week's project is successful, a more formal excavation effort is planned for the site in mid-August.