“Thomas Jefferson is here tonight as we celebrate this wonderful discovery of Ice Age fossils,” said Dr. Paul Semonin before he screened his film ‘American Monster: the Myth of the Mastodon’ for the audience of Thomas Jefferson staff, faculty and other guests at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Wednesday, December 8. “This is a bit like a premiere for me," he added. "This is the first time it's being shown on a big screen.”
The film unearths the story of how the first giant tooth found in New York’s Hudson Valley in the 1700’s led to the eventual identification of mammoths and mastodons as extinct behemoth creatures what once roamed North America – a story in which our school’s namesake Thomas Jefferson was a central figure.
“The bones are talking to us – reminding us of the existence of a prehistoric time,” said Dr. Semonin. "It is a treasure of bones and I’m very proud of all of you for paying such close attention to the bones while excavating them.’
Dean Rudy Hasl invited Dr. Semonin to San Diego by to show his film and speak to the TJSL family as part of the law school’s holiday party -- because he is an expert on the connection between Thomas Jefferson and the giant creatures – like the mammoth that was dug up at the construction site of TJSL’s new downtown campus in early 2009.
“What a marvelous coincidence,” Dr. Semonin said of the finding of the mammoth remains on the site of the law school that bears his name. “I relish being able to participate in this event.”
Copies of Dr. Semonin’s book “American Monster” were on sale at the event, and many people took advantage of the opportunity to have theirs personally autographed by the author.
The museum's director of Paleo Services, Dr. Tom Demere, also gave a presentation to the audience about how exciting it was for him and his staff to make such a wonderful discovery on our building site. "It's like being in the present and thousands of years in the past at the same time," he said.
After the screening and presentation, everyone enjoyed a festive holiday party, with the mammoth’s bones and huge teeth on display. And then of course, the special guest of honor, Thomas Jefferson.