March 18, 2010

Tusk Found During I-5 Construction

Drilling in construction sites is common practice. But what happens when you unearth something unusual? An exciting predicament happened to construction workers a few weeks ago, and the Burke Museum is helping solve the puzzle.

It all started while drilling in Ridgefield, WA, where construction is underway at the I-5 corridor. When the drill reached 30 feet underground, pieces of wood-like fragments emerged, and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) inspector Brad Clark took notice. The “wood” had fibers and when pieced together, resembled a tusk. Sure that the discovery required further investigation, Clark called WSDOT archaeologist Roger Kiers, who then brought the pieces to the Burke Museum in mid-February.

Burke research associate Bax Barton has been analyzing the pieces and suspects that the tusk fragments belonged to a Columbian Mammoth and are approximately 13,000-15,000 years old. Unfortunately, there are no current methods of micro-analysis on a tusk that can determine its species. Bax suspects that the tusk belonged to a Columbian Mammoth based on its age. Columbian Mammoths were common in Washington State, and roamed the region until 10,000 years ago. Although the Columbian Mammoth is the state fossil, discoveries of mammoth tusks are rare.

Tests to confirm whether the tusk belongs to a mammoth or mastodon and the age of the tusk should be completed this month. The Burke is very excited to take part in this discovery. Keep reading the blog for an update once the results come in!

Posted By: Andrea Barber, Communications
Photo: the tusk fragments, photo courtesy of Bax Barton