Monday, October 01, 2007

Giant bones challenged 18th-century intellectuals
Today, the valley is dry, dusty and unremarkable, but 250 years ago it was one of the most fascinating spots ever discovered in the North America. From the very first time in 1739 that local Indians led a contingent of French explorers to the salt licks near the Ohio River in what is today Boone County, Ky., the spot raised intellectually troubling questions.

European and American scientists understood the importance of salt licks and why thousands of modern buffalo, deer and elk beat broad paths to the marshy lick, but they could not explain why they found huge bones and tusks of "elephants," as well as other giant animals for which they had no names (eventually named giant ground sloth, the moose ox, flat headed peccary, etc.) lying on the ground and exposed in the banks of the nearby creek.