I love this story – in South Carolina the wooly Mammoth has been adopted as the official state fossil, not because some learned body or institution managed to promote it, but rather because of the efforts of a passionate history-obsessed 8 year old third-grader named Olivia McConnell who won the day despite some very vocal and rather weird opposition from some creationist nuts.
Opposition from creationist state legislators had stalled the initiative, but Gov. Nikki Haley made the state fossil official with her signature on Friday (May 16).
“That was history of South Carolina that would’ve been lost if I hadn’t done something about it,” 8-year-old Olivia McConnell told the Associated Press this week.
In letters to her local representatives earlier this year, Olivia had asked that the mammoth be made the state fossil, highlighting the beast’s importance to South Carolina history. Teeth from the species, which went extinct some 12,500 years ago, were dug up by slaves in a South Carolina swamp in 1725; these specimens were among the first vertebrate fossils discovered in North America.
A bill to make Olivia’s request official was first introduced in January to the state House, where it was passed and sent to the state Senate.
Along the way apparently some religious legislator tried to tweak it to read …
“”The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field, is designated as the official State Fossil of South Carolina”
Luckily common sense prevailed, and so the bible bits did not make the final cut.
OK, you are curious, so who is Olivia and who motivated her to push for this?
Olivia’s class visited the Statehouse last fall. Weeks later, when her family went to a restaurant that used placemats picturing state emblems, Olivia realized there was no fossil. So she researched the issue and wrote her local lawmakers, her mother said.
“This is not about a state symbol, or a fossil or a Columbian mammoth. This is about a little girl who is interested in fossils and state government and how things work, and when a child shows interest in something we should do all we can to foster that interest,” Ridgeway said. “You never know what that will become in the future.”
Olivia says her next project may be writing a book on the process. She also wants to make T-shirts featuring the fossil that ask, “Can you dig it?”
Now that is all fabulous, and so this is a good outcome and is to be applauded.
Oh and one more thing … Olivia, says that she wants to become an Egyptologist, and if that is indeed what she does then personally I think she will make a fine one, because she is already at the age of 8 off to a flying start.