Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis, c. 1785, oil on canvas,
and Thomas Jefferson by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1805, oil on panel,
both from National Portrait Gallery.

Big Bone Lick, in Boone County, northern Kentucky, is one of the most famous paleontological sites in North America. Throughout the mid 1700s, many fossil bones were collected from the area and transported to museums throughout the world. These bones sparked discussions about animals that apparently were different than modern animals. Famous Americans, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Meriwether Lewis, and George Clark, studied the bones. Georges Cuvier, an eminent French scientist, used fossil bones from Big Bone Lick and Europe to define an extinct animal called a “mastodon.” The recognition that mastodons once existed in Europe and North America, but no longer existed, led to acceptance of the idea that animals could go extinct and that they represented an ancient world that was perhaps different than our own.

 

Some of the fossils on display at the Big Bone Lick State Park museum.

 

 

 

 

 

Last Modified on 2018-06-22
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