Cohoes Mastodon

South Lobby

The Cohoes Mastodon was discovered in 1866 during construction of Harmony Mill No. 3 near Cohoes Falls on the Mohawk River. The mastodon's remains were found deeply buried in a large pothole, which had been worn into the bedrock by the swirling action of water and stones at the end of the last Ice Age. Since its discovery in 1866, the Cohoes Mastodon has become one of the State Museum’s treasures. It has been viewed by millions of visitors, from schoolchildren to great-grandparents.

The Cohoes Mastodon was first mounted and displayed in 1867, at Geological and Agricultural Hall in Albany. In 1915, it was moved to the New York State Museum, which opened within the newly built State Education Building. When the State Museum moved to the Cultural Education Center in 1976, the skeleton was dismantled and relocated to the scientific collections until 1997 when it was placed back on display.

Exhibitions Feature

Life of the Cohoes Mastodon

In life, the Cohoes Mastodon stood about eight and one-half feet high at the shoulder, was about fifteen feet long, and weighed between 8,000 and 10,000 pounds. The shape and large size of the bones indicate that the animal was male. We know from carbon dating that the mastodon lived about 13,000 years ago, and based on growth rings in his tusks, he died relatively young at the age of 32 (mastodon life expectancy was approximately 50 years).

Mortal Combat

Discover how, through extensive examination of the Mastdon's skeleton, researchers have identified "battle wounds" that contributed to stunted growth and the creature's early demise from a fatal blow to the temple.

Mastodon or Mammoth?

Learn the distinguishing features that separate a Mastodon from a Mammoth. Although mastodons resembled mammoths (also extinct), they were not closely related mammal species. Mastodons diverged from a common ancestor 15 million years ago, while mammoths and elephants continued on the same evolutionary path for another 11 million years.

Fun Facts: Did you know?!

  • A typical mastodon would have been about 8 to 10 feet at the shoulder, and weighed about 4 to 5 tons.
  • When he was 11 years old, the Cohoes Mastodon was injured in a Musth Battle which stunted his growth.
  • The Cohoes Mastodon also had poorly developed teeth on the right side of his jaw which would have affected his ability to consume food efficiently.
  • The Mastodon was discovered by James Hall who became the New York State Museum's first director in 1870.