The Megatherium was thought to be a massive sloth-like creature that roamed different parts of the world including South America and coastal Georgia of the United States. Several nineteenth century naturalists collected and described fossilized remains of these large animals. Among those, the philosopher Samuel Latham Mitchell described them as ‘relics’ and new additions to the ‘giant brood’ of large animals in America. In his accounts, Mitchell did not acknowledge the original discoverers, enslaved African Americans. The discovery of the Megatherium in Georgia contributed to the discussion about distribution of those fossils; that discussion took place at venues such as the Lyceum of Natural History in New York. Using this case study, we seek to contextualize the importance of the Megatherium fossils collected in Georgia to the discourse about fossilized animals in the nineteenth century. The importance of slavery to fossil collecting in the South will also be analyzed.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.