A mammoth tusk dating back at least 16,000 years was discovered in Seattle at a construction site about 30 feet below street level.
The find earlier this week appears to be the largest, most intact mammoth tusk found in the Seattle area, according to scientists at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Associated Press reported
Construction workers at the site stopped working following the discovery and allowed paleontologists to further excavate the fossil. Though a body could be found, experts doubt anything else remains besides the tusk.
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"A lot of time, teeth preserve better than other bones," Washington State Preservation Officer Allyson Brooks told The Associated Press, likening tusks to teeth.
Despite the apparent durability of tusks and the fact that mammoths, the ancestors of modern day elephants, roamed across the United States, Europe and Asia up to just 4,500 years ago, finding an intact tusk is a rare discovery, according to paleontologist Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies and Montana State University.
"We don't find them every year or even every five years," Horner told the AP.
According to the world famous paleontologist, such artifacts are frequently destroyed at construction sites before they can be recovered, while in other cases the owners of the property decide to keep them thinking they are worth a considerable amount of money, which Horner says is not the case.
In this case however, the owner of the property, AMLI Residential, decided to donate the piece to Seattle’s Burke Museum.
"The excavation will cause us some construction delay, but the scientific and educational benefits of this discovery clearly outweigh the costs and delay," AMLI Residential Senior Vice President Scott Koppelman told the AP. "This is an exciting discovery for our local Northwest history."
Prior to this week’s find, the last ancient tusk to be discovered in the area happened back in 1977 near Sequim, Wash. The tusk reportedly belonged to a mastodon, a close relation of the mammoth.
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