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Feb 12, 2014 10:15 AM EST

Woolly Mammoth Tusk Discovered in Seattle Construction Site


Construction workers in the South Lake Union area of Seattle found an ice-age mammoth tusk about 1.5 stories into the ground, which caused the digging to cease immediately.

After the workers found the tusk, Q13 Fox reported, they roped off the area and stopped digging while waiting for confirmation of what they found. Officials from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture were summoned to examine the find.

"Burke Museum paleontologists have examined the fossil and we are confident that it represents a tusk from an ice age mammoth," Christian Sidor, the museum's curator of vertebrate paleontology, said later that day.

"Because the fossil is on private property and does not seem to be associated with an archaeological site, it is up to the landowner to decide what they would like to do with the tusk," Sidor said. "We are happy to excavate the fossil if the landowner would like to take that step."

He said he and his museum colleagues are pleased to have the opportunity to examine the tusk more closely, as long as the landowner grants permission.

"The discovery of a mammoth tusk in South Lake Union is a rare opportunity to directly study Seattle's ancient natural history," Sidor said. "As a public repository, the Burke Museum would be pleased to curate the tusk and provide access to scientists and others wishing to study it."

The construction site was located at 528 Pontius Ave. North and was later confirmed to be of a woolly mammoth from the ice age. The woolly mammoth was one of dozens of species in the Mammuthus genus. Some of those other species are widely believed to have outsized the wooly mammoth as well.

It is not clear how large the discovered tusk was, or if it was a portion of a full one, but mammoth tusks could be as long as 15 feet. Woolly mammoths were named for their thick coat of fur, which was not uncommon for animals of that time.

The ice age was also a time when early humans hunted woolly mammoths and other related animals.

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