Does fossilization require rapid burial as the result of catastrophic global flooding? Literalist creationists would have us believe so for they point to the fossil record as being proof of a cataclysmic global flood. Look a bit deeper though and you will find that creationists frequently concede there are thousands of exceptions to this general perception.
Yesterday we learned about one of these many exceptions. In north Texas a nearly complete mammoth has been unearthed on a private residence during an excavation project. Just look at this impressive skeleton. It looks like a mammoth just laid down and died here recently. But these are not just bones from a recently deceased animal but rather bone that have progressed along the path to fossilization – a path that has taken many 10s of thousands of years.
Mammoths and mastodons were common in North American in the Pleistocene era commonly thought of as a time of the most recent Ice Ages. Thousands of tusks and even whole animals have been found in many states and are on display in museums all around the country. Did this mammoth die in a global catastrophic flood 4500 years ago?
Most surely not and even young earth creationists (YECs) agree. They believe that these mammoths are descendants of a pair of elephants that walked off of Noah’s Ark in the middle east about 4500 years ago. They migrated to NA across the Bering Land Bridge during an Ice Age filling North and Central America with elephants.
So the bones you see before you here are not the result of a great flood but were preserved by some other means. A likely scenario is that this mammoth likely found its way onto a mudflat of a receded lake or stream where it died. It was probably scavenged by birds and small animals but the bones were left behind. The lake may have been suddenly been raised by a local flood or even normal annual changes and the bones covered with sediments. Eventually that lake was filled in by sediments burying the bones under 10s of feet of sediment. There the bones have begun the process of fossilization. These bones would probably be best considered subfossils because they probably still contain a significant portion of the original material that has not yet been mineralized.
You are seeing the process of fossilization in action here. We have a beautiful example that shows us that extreme events are not necessary for fossils to be formed. Creationists have to agree, not all fossils are formed in a global flood. Why then should they insist that fossils are proof of a global flood? No set of fossils from the geological column require a global flood. Upon inspection of the context of the fossils a flood – of any extent – is not the most common cause of an animals preservation. The distribution of fossil types in the fossil record speaks directly against a global flood. See Age of Rocks post for a primer on the characteristics of the bones in the fossil record: Fragments of the Fossil Record: “Thigh Bone Disconnected from the Hip Bone…
Many people confuse mammoths and mastodons for good reason since both lived in North America. However, they were quite different from one another. Below is an image from Wikipedia showing the differences between these two amazing extinct species.