Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mammoths in Bodega Bay

Ever wonder who was living in Bodega Bay during prehistoric times? Fortunately our friend Breck Parkman offers fascinating insights. He's a senior archaeologist with the California State Parks, and it's his job to investigate our natural history.

Breck was interviewed for a segment of Quest, a TV program produced by our local PBS station, KQED-TV. The focus was the pleistocene era of the San Francisco Bay Area and included a discussion of the "Sunset Boulders" located here on the coast just north of Bodega Bay. Breck presents evidence that the heavily polished areas of the boulders were caused by the shoulders of huge mammoths. He analyzed the polish with an atomic-force microscope and ruled out wind, water, and other geologic explanations, and explains how thousands of generations of animals created this over time.

It's absolutely amazing to realize that 12-15,000 years ago, this area was populated by an incredible diversity of huge mammals including mammoths, saber-tooth cats, American lions, western camels, sloths, bison and much more, and the evidence is buried right underneath us. They show a few skulls including an especially fierce short-faced bear. Those creatures stood up to 13' tall.

The Quest segment shows that the Bodega Bay coastline was approximately 12 miles out beyond where it is now and the plains in between were teeming with life. They also show that the entire San Francisco Bay was a big valley with a river flowing out what we now call the Golden Gate. The segment is about 11 minutes long and well worth every minute. You've gotta check it out!


QUEST on KQED Public Media.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

How cool is that! What an incredible sight that would be. I never would have guessed. Thanks for another great blog Kathlene. You are the best! Suzanne

Kathlene said...

Thank you Suzanne!

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say that I never wondered about mammoths in Bodega Bay!:)
Karen

Creek said...

Very cool. When I worked for State Parks, the biggest treat in my training was Parkman's talk on the area's prehistory. Thanks for blogging and linking!
~ Kassy

(arg, fixed a typo and left a blot)

Kathlene said...

Thanks for your comment Kassy. I know what you mean, I saw Breck speak at our local historical society meeting, he's really engaging.

I removed the blot, no prob. :-)

Jaya said...

Interesting! I was just discussing the "ice baby" mammoth covered by National Geographic with my brother. We were wondering what prehistoric animals were here in the SF Bay Area. I had no idea that mammoths lived here!

My dino-loving nephew is going to love this story, too. Thanks.

Kathlene said...

Thanks Jaya! Don't you love the visuals in the Quest segment? They did an excellent job of recreating what this area and its mammals looked like back then.

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