Mastodon Tooth Is Charity's Biggest and Oldest Donation

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 07:43 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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A Michigan-based charity was stunned to find that an unusual donation it received back in July turned out to be pieces of a 12,000-year-old mastodon tooth.

Officials from the In the Image Christian charity in Grand Rapids said they originally did not know what to make of the artifacts, covered in some kind of lacquer, according to the Grand Rapids Press, but the Grand Rapids Public Museum, which already had some mastodon artifacts on display, helped the charity unravel the mystery.

The pieces have been added to the museum's educational collection this month, reported the Grand Rapids Press.

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"At first, it looked like broken parts of something," Jay Starkey, director of the charity, told the Grand Rapids Press.

The Associated Press reported that the mastodon tooth was broken into two parts while a tusk, also believed to be from a mastodon, was hollow at one end.

"This is kind of an oddball way for something to come in," said Tim Priest, the museum's collections manager told the AP.

Mastodons roamed North America more than 10,000 years ago, and their remains turn up from time to time in Michigan, according to the AP. Both pieces are estimated to be anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000 years old.

Starkey told the Grand Rapids Press that the charity has not been able to determine who made the donation since the box the artifacts came in was not immediately inspected when it was picked up, but believe it may have come from a home in Ada, Mich.

He told the newspaper, though, that was not the strangest donation to the charity. In the Image once received a painting worth about $5,000 and another time an urn with someone’s ashes inside.

The Grand Rapids' charity began in 1989 to be a place where the homeless and poor could shop for donated items like clothing, furniture and houseware, according to In the Image's website. The charity said it serves about 200 per month.

The Grand Rapids Public Museum manages a series of sites in Western Michigan with its main facility, the Van Andel Museum Center, located in downtown Grand Rapids.

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