Imagine that you could be transported in a time machine to Nebraska 10 million years ago. You would walk out of your time machine into a very different world than the one you’re used to.
Courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, GP-PAL002_KB0006_02
|For one thing, you would be the only human being in the landscape. Humans had not yet evolved, and so animals dominated a landscape covered with sub-tropical grasses and patches of jungle.|
|The area that became Nebraska was much warmer 10 million years ago than it is now. Animals living during the Miocene geologic era — which lasted from 23 million years ago to 5 million years ago — most likely never saw snow. Ten million years ago, its most dominant feature would have been a flat terrain covered by an ocean of grass, interrupted by shallow stream valleys and clumps of forest.
Courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, GP-PAL002_KB0009_05
Courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, GP-PAL002_KP0005_06
|Animal life would have been present in stunning numbers and diversity. Dozens of hoofed species and grazing animals such as rhinos, giant camels, three-horned deer, four-tusked elephants, oreodonts, and horses lived on the American plains. Meat-eaters ranging in size from weasels to great lumbering bear dogs ranged over the landscape.|
|None of these animals could have known what you, the time traveler from the 21st century, knows — their world was about to change radically. Millions of years later, they would be part of one of the most amazing archaeological finds — a place called Ashfall.
Courtesy Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, GP-PAL002_KP0008_03