A fossil site reveals an ancient sinkhole and its enormous occupant

Rebuilding the lower jaw of the Gray mastodon.

Enlarge / Rebuilding the lower jaw of the Gray mastodon. (credit: ETSU Gray Fossil Site & Museum)

Something has been discovered in Tennessee—something that only exists in one museum. It’s something enormous, slightly puzzling, and possibly the first of its kind discovered. Five years after its excavation, it remains incomplete.

The mastodon skeleton slowly taking shape in Tennessee is no secret. Pictures and descriptions of its progress have been posted on social media from the beginning, and while those who are aware of it are intrigued, it hasn’t made many headlines. Yet.

Out of the gray

The Gray Fossil Site near Gray, Tennessee, was found by accident during road construction in 2000. Thanks to the efforts of local people and the state government who recognized the importance of the site, construction halted. A museum was erected several years later. Bits of bones and one shattered tusk were all that had been found when the site was preserved, but the area is proving to be voluminous in its fossil content.

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