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Recreating the Foot of a Wooly Mammoth for Outreach Education

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

A few years ago a farmer in Iowa discovered the skeletal remains of a wooly mammoth on his property! Local students and archaeologists carefully excavated the skeleton. I was lucky enough to visit the dig site, participate in the excavation process (which is no small task for such a large creature), and even make my own discovery - a piece of the mammoth that we believe was a part of the head or maybe the sinuses.

I stayed in touch with the crew and eventually connected with a local naturalist. We partnered up to create a hands-on learning tool that could be used during outreach visits to schools or as a stationary tool in their new learning center. We wanted to create something that would allow learners to compare their size to the size of a wooly mammoth. We had seen footprint graphics laid on the floor that you could step on to see how your feet compared. We decided to take it to another level and actually recreate a mammoth foot; hair, toenails, and all. We thought that this might help give some context and help learners really visualize and imagine what this creature looked like and how massive it was.

The graphic below describes the mammoth foot construction process. I chose to use foam to keep the foot as lightweight as possible.

p.s. this project is now a few years old. Nowadays I would probably not excavate the entire center of this stack of foam (big facepalm). Instead I would cut "C" shapes and layer them to create the walls and stack those on top of a base. Wow that would've saved some time!

Anyhow, here's the final product:

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