Construction Crews Discover 12,000-Year-Old Juggernaut Skeleton in Michigan

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Grand Rapids Public Museum Dr. Cory Redman of the Grand Rapids Public Museum looks through the bones at the site

A surprise of massive proportions awaited a crew of construction workers in Michigan last week.

Crews discovered a mastodon skeleton during a road construction project in Kent County on Thursday afternoon, according to MLive.com, after a digger operator noticed something red in the ground.

“You go over there to put a pipe in the ground and you find this,” Kent County Drainage Commissioner Ken Yonker told the outlet. “To find a juggernaut, it just blew our minds.”

“It was really cool,” he added.

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The construction project, intended to replace a culvert, is now on hold as researchers scour the site for additional skeletal parts, MLive.com reported.

“We look at the past of our existence and, and where we are, and it’s just, it kind of puts a little perspective on where we are, who we are on this earth,” Yonker told the affiliate. from ABC WZZM.

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The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) will receive the behemoth and will share footage Friday of volunteers and experts extracting the bones from the ground.

An update posted to the GRPM Facebook page on Monday showed one of the bones that had already arrived at the museum.

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“At this time, all of the bones have been excavated and are beginning to be cleaned and slowly dried,” GRPM curator of science Dr. Cory Redman told PEOPLE in a statement. “The Museum is working with our partners at the University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology, to begin studying and preserving the bones, so they can be displayed in the future.”

“This process will take about a year and a half,” he added. “From what we can tell so far, the skeleton appears to be about 60% complete and belongs to a single juvenile mastodon believed to have died over 11,700 years ago.”

According to MLive.com, crews have filled more than 100 bags with bones from the site, but have yet to find the animal’s skull.

“Very rarely do you find a complete skeleton, especially of a large vertebrate like this,” said University of Michigan research specialist Scott Beld. “We unfortunately didn’t find the skull or any of the tusks, but we found a lot of other really cool stuff.”

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Mastodons lived in North America and are often confused with the woolly mammoth, according to the New York State Museum. Both animals resemble hairy elephants, but mastodons are generally smaller in size and have a different curve to their tusks.

The museum said both animals are believed to have died out 10,000 years ago due to environmental stress and low birth rates. They may also have been hunted to extinction by American Indians.

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