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Why Are Rhino Fossils In Nebraska?

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Fossilized Rhino's at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in Nebraska

Fossilized Rhino’s at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in Nebraska

I have always been fascinated by our planet and learning about its history and constant state of change. This fascination led us to Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in Nebraska. This State Park contains the fossils of Rhinos, Camels, and Zebras, animals you would expect to find in Africa.

Rhino And Horse - Ashfall Fossil Beds

Rhino And Horse – Ashfall Fossil Beds

The history of what would become Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park began in 1979 (established 1991) when a paleontologist named Mike Voorhies made an amazing discovery, the remains of a Rhinoceros buried in the low rolling hills of Nebraska. As amazing as the initial discovery was, it would lead to further excavations and the recovery of more than 200 fossilized skeletons buried in a thick layer of ash.

You may notice the Rhinos do not have horns. That is due to the fact that the horn of a Rhino is made from tiny hairs that are matted together, not from bone. So over time the hairs decay, and fade away with time.

A Volcano Covered Nebraska In Ash

Idaho Volcano Ashfall Area

Idaho Volcano Ashfall Area

Nebraska is known to contain a layer of ash roughly one to two feet thick from a volcano that erupted roughly 12 million years ago. The volcano was located in what is now Idaho spreading ash and debris primarily east, right across the land now known as Nebraska. What added to the surprise of the Rhino discovery was the ash at this location was ten feet thick!

Ensuing excavations revealed that hundreds of animals died in what must have been a watering hole in a dry savannah-like environment. Due to the amount of ash released from the volcano, it is believed the waterhole filled with the ash and preserved the remains of these animals.

As Voorhies explained,

It became clear that a major disaster, claiming hundreds of victims, had occurred at the site.

The Ashfall Killed and Preserved The Animals In Ash

Rhino Barn From Top Platform - Ashfall Fossil Beds

Rhino Barn From Top Platform – Ashfall Fossil Beds

As the ash began to fall on the animals in the area, small glass particles from the ash were inhaled which destroyed the lungs of these creatures. It is believed so many animals died in the watering hole as they were seeking some relief from their pain in the cool of the mud.

Regardless, analysis shows the animals have bone growths just as modern animals do when they die of lung failure due to oxygen deprivation.

Digging down from the top we always found rhinoceroses first, then, at deeper levels, smaller hoofed animals such as horses and camels, and finally, birds and turtles. The latter were always at the very bottom of the ash bed, in a layer containing numerous footprints of rhinos and other hoofed animals. It seemed evident that the small creatures died first, then the middle-sized ones, and finally, the rhinos. The animals definitely did not die all at once; they were not (with the possible exception of the birds and turtles) buried alive. – Mike Voorhies, Palentologist

It was explained to us, not all of the animals were killed by the ash, only the animals in the general region perished. They are certain of this as these same animals are found in the soil layers above the ash. So we know, life went on after this event.

Ashfall Fossil Beds Rhino Barn

Rhino Barn Soil Cut Away

Rhino Barn Soil Cut Away – Ashfall Fossil Beds

Waterhole Sand and Ash Layer - Ashfall Fossil Beds

Waterhole Sand and Ash Layer

The excavations still continue at Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in a building called, the “Rhino Barn”.

Every summer Paleontologists continue excavating the old watering hole uncovering more creatures from the past. The purpose is not to uncover and remove the fossils, but to leave them intact and in place for research and visitors to admire.

The Rhino Barn is climate controlled and protects the fossils from harsh Nebraska winters. The building also provides visitors with multiple up-close views of the work that is still being performed. It is an amazing and rare opportunity to see the complete and intact fossils of Rhinos and other creatures up so close.

What Are African Animals Doing In Ashfall State Park?

Rhino Teleoceras Major

Rhino Teleoceras Major

One of the most intriguing aspects of Ashfall Fossil Beds for me was to see animals that you would expect to find in Africa. Now the species of Rhino found at Ashfall is not the same species of Rhino’s found in Africa today.

The species at Ashfall Park are called “Teleoceras major“. However, fossils of this species of Rhino have been found all across North America, Africa (Egypt) and France.

The obvious question comes to mind, how is it possible that Rhino’s from the other side of the world lived in Nebraska at one time?

How did they travel across the ocean?

Crowned Crane Balearica

Crowned Crane Balearica

While Ashfall State Park does not get into the particulars of this matter, they do explain the species of crane found in Ashfall Park is known as the Crowned Crane which is the same species found in Africa to this day.

Further, they explain that Crowned Cranes do not migrate which adds to the mystery…

For us, these facts provided even more credibility to the concept of a Pangea, the theory that at one time, the continents of the earth were connected together in one large land mass.

How else would the animals find their way from what is now the other side of the world to North America?

While Rhino’s and other African style animals have been found all across our country, Ashfall Fossil Beds seems to be a special place due to the numerous fossils that are intact, just as the animals fell, (see: Agate Fossils Beds National Monument).

Nebraska Was Covered By An Ancient Sea

Ammonite Seashell - Ashfall Fossil Beds

Ammonite Seashell – Ashfall Fossil Beds

Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park also features the fossils of sea creatures found in Nebraska who at one time lived in the ocean that covered most of the United States roughly 80 million years ago.

This is interesting for the Christian, the Bible documents at the end of The First Earth Age, the earth was completely covered in water, something science agrees with as well.

In an age where we constantly hear about manmade climate change, Ashfall State Park is a great place to learn about the earth and its history. After your visit, you will have a better understanding of our planet, you will learn how much it has changed, and far before man ever stepped foot on it.

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7 Comments

  1. there was a land bridge called Beringia that connected asia to alaska about 20,000 years ago, allowing for the migration of people and animals to enter into the “new world”

    • Hello Eugene. That is a theory science has. However, the animals uncovered in this article date roughly 12 million years ago. So even if the land bridge was a fact, it would not explain what we discussed here as they pre-date any land bridge by 12 million years.

  2. Evidence of the Katabole!

    • Hey Ginger. This does not document the end of The First Earth Age or The Fall Of Satan. Life continued on in the region and around the world, the fossil record proves that as mentioned. Notice the picture of the volcano and where the ash went, some areas had a thicker ashfall than others. It is a very interesting sight to see though.

      • Hello Brandon:
        You are right, I put the katabole much later when the wooly mammoths were SUDDENLY frozen 10,000 years ago. Researchers could not come up with an adequate explanation of how they could be found standing upright under the tundra with tropical plants in their mouths.
        Thanks

      • Ginger, I encourage you to do some research. None of this is true.

        The Mammoths that have been found were not frozen instantly, there was no instant freeze, neither did they have buttercups in their mouth. There is one Mammoth they found in 1900, which is known as the “Berezovka Mammoth”. This is where your story comes from. One person exaggerated a story and now it seems to be pretty common, especially with those who believe in a young earth.

        Here is the fact of the matter,

        Buttercups also made up a part of the diet of mammoths; pollen of Ranunculus has been found between the teeth and in the stomach of frozen carcass of the Berezovka mammoth. – U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper

        “Ranunculus” is the scientific name for Artic Buttercups, all they found was pollen in between the teeth. Further, the mammoth did not freeze instantly, and carbon dating revealed the animal is roughly 35,000 years old, not 10,000.

        I encourage our readers to double check whatever they are told and taught. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Had there been some instant freeze, tons of Mammoths and other animals would have been found across the globe. That is not the case. Further, the last Mammoths went extinct just 3,600 years ago on an island off the coast of Siberia.

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