Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Upgrade to today
for only an extra Cxx.xx

You get:

plus This issue of xxxxxxxxxxx.
plus Instant access to the latest issue of 310+ of our top selling titles.
plus Unlimited access to 27000+ back issues
plus No contract or commitment. If you decide that PocketmagsPlus is not for you, you can cancel your monthly subscription online at any time. Auto-renews at £9.99 per month, unless cancelled.
Upgrade Now for £9.99 Learn more
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
   You are currently viewing the United Kingdom version of the site.
Would you like to switch to your local site?
Read anywhere Read anywhere
Ways to pay Pocketmags Payment Types
Trusted site
At Pocketmags you get
Secure Billing
Great Offers
Web & App Reader
Gifting Options
Loyalty Points


It took several more decades to solve the American mastodon mystery, partly because the fossils at Big Bone Lick were so remote and so dangerous to reach. The Ohio River valley was an untamed frontier claimed by French forces, Englishspeaking settlers from the American colonies, and the Native American Nations that already lived there. The French and English each negotiated competing alliances and trade deals with the Native Americans, then began building forts in the area. This was a recipe for war.

The first English speakers to see the fossils at Big Bone Lick were pioneer settlers, surveyors, and traders in the 1740s and 1750s, a few years after Longueuil’s French military expedition had found fossils in the area. But it would be a long time before English-speaking naturalists learned of the salt lick’s scientific treasure. War broke out in 1754 after Americans commanded by 22-year old George Washington ambushed a force of French Canadians. These were the first shots fired in the “French and Indian War.” This conflict prevented access to Big Bone Lick for several more years.

The war gave naturalists in France a long head start. They had the chance to study the teeth and leg bone that Longueuil had donated to the collection of the French king. In the early 1760s, these strange fossils attracted the interest of international science superstar Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon and his assistant, medical doctor and anatomy expert Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton. Daubenton set to work studying the American fossils using the approach that English naturalist Hans Sloane had recommended thirty years earlier: comparative anatomy. He placed the American fossil leg bone next to specimens of the same bone from a Siberian mammoth and a modern elephant, They weren’t the same. The mammoth bone and the Ohio River fossil were much thicker and heavier than the elephant’s. But the three leg bones did have similarities—enough similarities, Daubenton believed, that they could all be lumped together as one species of elephant. His boss Buffon agreed with Daubenton’s solution to the mystery. There was “no longer any room to doubt,” Buffon proclaimed, that these fossils were “truly the tusks and bones of the elephant.”

Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptic - 21.3
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Digital Issue
This issue and other back issues are not included in a new Skeptic subscription. Subscriptions include the latest regular issue and new issues released during your subscription.
Annual Digital Subscription
Only £ 2.25 per issue
Was £14.99
Now £8.99

View Issues

About Skeptic

INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY SPECIAL SECTION: IS PORNOGRAPHY BAD FOR YOU?; How Porn Is Messing with Your Manhood; Skeptical of Porn Skeptics; Hazards of Herbal Medicine: Lessons from Aristolochia; What is Sexual Orientation?; Did a Teenager Discover an Ancient Mayan City on Google Earth?; Paleo Diets and Utopian Dreams; Does AA Work? Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Step Programs, and What We Really Know About Substance Abuse Treatment; The Clash of Eschatologies: The Role of End-Times Thinking in World History; Nightmares from the Id: The Neurophysiology of Anomalous Psychological Experiences; Terror Attacks that Never Were; Electromagnetic Fields and Parental Panics: A Case Study in How Science Can Bring Comfort; REVIEWS: Who Invented Science?; Science and the Creation of the Modern Mind; Heaven Is Not For Real; When Scientific American Put Psychics to the Test; JUNIOR SKEPTIC: MammothMysteries! Part One. The Hidden History of Mammoths and Mastodons