Fred the Mastodon Unveiled at the State Museum
By Kathi Moore
Indiana State Museum
It has been 14 years since Dan Buesching found some huge bones in the mucky soil of his Allen County peat farm, but Fred the Mastodon has finally come to rest at the entrance to the Level 1 Nina Mason Pulliam Gallery of the Indiana State Museum, where he was unveiled in a ceremony recently to a crowd of donors, Bueschings and board members.
This fall, the mastodon will be the centerpiece of a new exhibit, Indiana’s Ice Age Giants: The Mystery of Mammoths and Mastodons, presented by IMI.
There are many unusual things about this mastodon; for one, it is a real-bone mount, not a cast of bones, which you often find in museums. The skeleton is 80% real bone, which is also very rare to find that many bones of one mammal; usually 50% would be considered a good find. It is also rare for a museum to take on the actual mounting of such a large creature. (More information on the mounting process can be found on the museum blog here.)
Fred is Indiana State Museum’s most complete skeleton of a mastodon and one of the most complete skeletons in the Midwest. Dan Buesching discovered a 9-foot tusk in 1998, when he was digging peat moss on his family’s farm – Buesching Peat Moss & Mulch – near Fort Wayne.
Buesching reported the find to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne. Faculty, students and volunteers excavated the skeleton, which was entombed in soil muck that was once a prehistoric lake.
The skeleton found its permanent home at the Indiana State Museum in 2006. The mastodon is named after Fred Buesching, Dan Buesching’s grandfather and founder of the family business.
Quick facts about Fred
- About 80 percent of the full skeleton was recovered in Fort Wayne.
- Fred weighed about 3 tons.
- The skull is about 250 pounds.
- The lower jaw weighs about 80 pounds.
- Each tusk weighs 100 pounds.
- Mounted, Fred is about 9 feet tall.
- Bone analysis through radiocarbon dating shows that Fred is more than 13,000-years-old.
Exhibiting the bones
In order to present the remains, the mastodon is mounted on a metal frame customized and crafted by the museum’s mountmaker and sculptor Mike Smith.
Fred’s assembly was supported by the LDI 100th Anniversary Celebration Cultural Partnership Gift Program and donors who purchased mastodon bones starting from $50 for small bones to the $20,000 skull, which was purchased by members of the Buesching family. (Bones are still available for sale here.)
Often confused with the woolly mammoth, mastodons are an older species. Scientists think they originated in Africa 35 million years ago and entered North America about 15 million years ago. Both animals were prevalent during the Ice Age in Indiana. Though the mammoth was taller, the mastodon was a bulkier animal.
Mastodons in Indiana
The Indiana State Museum has mastodon and mammoth remains from more than 28 localities around Indiana; more sites than any other museum in the Midwest.
“What makes Fred so significant is that more than 80 percent of the skeleton has been discovered, and the bones – even the intricate feet bones – were largely intact,” said Ronald Richards, paleontology curator at the Indiana State Museum.
Indiana also has a long history of exporting mastodon bones, which can be seen in museums throughout the country.
For more information, visit http://indianamuseum.org/, or call 317-232-1637.