Ice Age Explorers Program

The Mammoth Site conducts a four-week long excavation each summer, which is divided into two 2-week sessions. As a participant in The Mammoth Site Ice Age Explorers Program, you will spend the part of your time excavating in the Bonebed. The dig site is completely enclosed indoors, so unlike other excavation crews, Mammoth Site diggers work in a shaded, climate controlled setting. The rest of your time will be spent working on other exciting Mammoth Site research projects, including cleaning the bones of extinct bison and sloths from Mexico and sorting the bones of small Ice Age vertebrates excavated from Wind Cave National Park.

Once at the Site, participants will be briefed on safety procedures. The first few days of excavation will be devoted to training in proper excavation techniques, use of various tools and how to move safely through the Bonebed. Training will vary based on assigned tasks and level of prior experience and will continue until participants are confident and skilled enough to complete their assignments successfully. Participants will then be moved to new excavation locations throughout the Bonebed as chosen by the Bonebed supervisors. Tasks may include excavating new areas, flattening pathways, detailing bones or preparing bones for removal. 

The Mammoth Site is a popular tourist destination, so you will be working in view of the public and have the opportunity to interact with our visitors, most of whom are very curious about excavation in the Bonebed.

The 2019 Mammoth Site Excavations

First Session – Arrive June 2- Depart June 15, 2019 
Second Session – Arrive June 16- Depart June 29, 2019 


In most cases, discovery is a game of luck, and we cannot guarantee that every participant will find a bone. One person may find several, another may unearth snail shells, and a third might not find anything at all. Bone, shell, fragment, and pebble locations within the Bonebed are used to reconstruct how the Bonebed formed, where the animals were trying to climb out and where water was deeper or moving faster. By the end of the session, each person, whether they found a mammoth skull, a mouse tooth, or a bunch of pebbles, will have made a meaningful contribution to the ongoing research and preservation work of The Mammoth Site.

Preserving specimens in-situ presents a unique and exciting challenge. Our goal is not only to unearth more mammoth bones, but to investigate the site as a whole and ensure the long term preservation and safety of the Bonebed. Your personal excavation projects may include excavation of relatively barren areas as wells as those more likely to produce bone, shells, etc. Each project is chosen by staff with the long term preservation of the Site in mind.

You may find that you would like to work more on other projects that we have going on at The Mammoth Site-such as the tropical marsh deposit of Terapa, in northcentral Sonora, Mexico where you would work on ground sloth, bison or capybara. Maybe you want to work on the bone-laden sediments from nearby Persistence Cave, or maybe the sediments from the Channel Islands off of California where we have recovered pygmy mammoths. Aspects of these projects that participants can work on include sorting bone from sediments or preparing and carefully removing bone of a large mammal from a plaster jacket. These other projects are designed to be rewarding experiences for our participants who will be providing critical help with scientific research.

To register call 605-745-6017 or email

The cost for participants is :

New Participants

$3,000 total cost if new to The Mammoth Site Ice Age Explorers Program

$300.00 non-refundable deposit to guarantee your spot on the 15-person team

$2,700 balance due by March 30th if in the first session – June 2-June 15, 2019

due by March 30th  if in the second session – June 16-June 29, 2019

Returning Participants

$2,800 if returning participant in a previous two-week program at The Mammoth Site

$300.00 non-refundable deposit to guarantee your spot on the 15-person team

$2,500 balance due by balance due by March 30th if in the first session – June 2-June 15, 2019

due by March 30th  if in the second session – June 16-June 29, 2019

The program cost covers your room and board.