A tusk that paleontologists believe came from an Ice Age mammoth was discovered while workers were digging at a construction site in South Lake Union today, according to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
The tusk was found on private property, so the landowner will decide what to do with it. Burke Museum paleontologists would like to excavate it, Christian Sidor, Burke Museum curator of vertebrate paleontology, said in a statement.
“The discovery of a mammoth tusk in South Lake Union is a rare opportunity to directly study Seattle’s ancient natural history,” Sidor said.
Mammoths and their ancient elephant relative, mastodons, inhabited the ice-free lands of North America. Mammoths arrived from Asia about 2 million years ago, while mastodons lived in North America from about 15 million to 9,000 years ago. Both became extinct as the glaciers started receding at the end of the Ice Age, between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago.
Some mammoths grew to 12 feet at the shoulder; their tusks curved down from the face, then upward at the ends. They chewed grass with large, flat teeth similar to modern elephants’ teeth.
Mammoth fossils have been found in various areas of the Pacific Northwest, including Eastern Oregon, where a part of a mammoth tusk was found in October last year.