Archaeology as blood sport: How the discovery of an ancient mastodon ignited debate over humans’ arrival in North America
“Oh my God,” Richard Cerutti said to himself. He bent down to pick up a sharp, splintered bone fragment. Its thickness and weight told him that it belonged to an animal, a very big animal. His mind started to race.
He was standing at the foot of a slope being groomed by Caltrans for a road-widening project through the Sweetwater Valley near National City.
Earthmoving equipment had already uncovered other fossils from elsewhere on the site, mostly rodents, birds and lizards. But this bone was from no ordinary animal. The operator wanted to keep digging, but Cerutti raised a fist to stop him. He felt a tightening knot of anger.
The contractors had worked over the weekend without contacting him, and he could see the damage they had done. He sprinted up the slope to a construction trailer and picked up a telephone.
“Tom,” he said. “I think I have a mammoth out here on State Route 54. Can you send some help?”