Chapter II, The Sixth Extinction (The Discovery of the Mastodon)

What a superb storyteller Elizabeth Kolbert is! To think self only heard about her books from reading the Contributors Notes for a back issue of The New Yorker. She wasn’t even aware that The Sixth Extinction won the Pulitzer in 2015.

from Chapter II:

  • The first mastodon bones subjected to what might, anachronistically, be called scientific study were discovered in 1739. That year, Charles le Moyne, the second Baron de Longueuil, was traveling down the Ohio River with four hundred troops, some, like him, Frenchmen, most of the others Algonquians and Iroquois. The journey was arduous and supplies were short. On one leg, a French soldier would later recall, the troops were reduced to living off acorns.

Longueuil was leading his men on a campaign against the Chickasaw, and many of his men died in the next several months. Indian scouts discovered, at the edge of an enormous swamp near present-day Cincinnati, a quantity of gigantic bones and teeth (the roots alone were the length of a man’s hand). They turned out to belong to a creature later known as “the American elephant,” or mastodon.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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