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Coal miners in the US have discovered a mammoth tusk that had been buried for thousands of years.
Science & Health

Coal miners in the US have discovered a mammoth tusk that had been buried for thousands of years.

The initial individual to notice it was a worker using a shovel during the late night hours. They noticed a sparkle of white while scooping up a large pile of dirt and transferring it into a dump truck.

After the truck driver unloaded the cargo, a bulldozer operator was prepared to level the soil. However, they paused when they also noticed the small white object.

It was only at that moment that the miners became aware of their discovery: a mammoth tusk measuring 2 meters in length, which had been buried for thousands of years.

David Straley, a North American Coal executive, expressed our good fortune in stumbling upon our findings.

The tusk was discovered by miners in an ancient streambed, located 12.1 meters underground at the Freedom Mine in Beulah, North Dakota. This surface mine, spanning 18,210 hectares, has an annual production of 14.5 million metric tons of lignite coal.

Upon discovering the tusk, the crews ceased excavation in the vicinity and summoned specialists to assess its age, which was determined to be between 10,000 and 100,000 years.

Paleontologist Jeff Person from the North Dakota Geologic Survey was one of the individuals who replied. He was surprised that the mammoth tusk had not sustained more harm, especially considering the large machinery utilized at the location.

Person said it was a miracle that it emerged mostly unharmed.

During a follow-up excavation of the site, additional bones were uncovered. The individual referred to the finding as a small number of discoveries, consisting of over 20 bones such as a shoulder blade, ribs, a tooth, and sections of hips. This is likely the most comprehensive mammoth skeleton ever found in North Dakota, where it is more typical to unearth single mammoth bones, teeth, or fragments of tusks.

FILE - North Dakota Geologic Survey Paleontologist Jeff Person sits behind a 2-meter mammoth tusk on Dec. 19, 2023, at the Geologic Survey office in Bismarck, N.D.

On December 19, 2023, at the Geologic Survey office in Bismarck, North Dakota, Paleontologist Jeff Person is seen sitting behind a mammoth tusk measuring 2 meters in length.

Person stated that although the number of bones may not seem like much in relation to the total number in the skeleton, it is still significant because it confirms that they all belong to the same animal. This discovery is also a considerable amount more than any other findings of a single animal, which adds even more significance to it.

Giant elephants, known as mammoths, used to inhabit regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. According to Paul Ullmann, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of North Dakota, remains of these creatures have been discovered in various locations throughout the United States and Canada.

According to Ullmann, the discovery of the mine is uncommon in North Dakota and the surrounding area due to the destruction of animal remains from the last Ice Age caused by glaciers and ice sheet movements.

Different regions have produced a greater number of mammoth fossils, including collections of bones in Texas and South Dakota. According to the speaker, individuals have also discovered preserved carcasses in the frozen ground of Canada and Siberia.

The Geologic Survey states that mammoths became extinct approximately 10,000 years ago in present-day North Dakota. These creatures were bigger than modern-day elephants and had a coat of thick wool. Cave drawings from 13,000 years ago depict mammoths.

According to Ullmann, mammoths are considered “media superstars” just like dinosaurs, with the popular Ice Age movie series being used as an example.

This delicate tusk, which weighs over 22.6 kilograms, is currently being protected with plastic in order for paleontologists to regulate its dehydration rate. If it dries too rapidly, the bone may become damaged and irreparable, according to Person.

Other bones also have been wrapped in plastic and placed in drawers. The bones will remain in plastic for at least several months until the scientists can figure how to get the water out safely. The paleontologists will identify the mammoth species later, Person said.

The mining company intends to give the bones to the state for educational use.

Straley stated that our objective is to provide it to the children.

The terrain of North Dakota is ideal for discovering bones and fossils, including those of dinosaurs. One of the most well-known fossils found in the state is Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur with preserved skin, according to Ullmann.

According to Ullmann, the abundance of fossils in the state can be attributed to the past existence of low-altitude, fertile landscapes that were highly productive from an ecological standpoint.

According to him, North Dakota’s position near the Rocky Mountains makes it susceptible to sediment erosion and river activity. As a result, animal remains have been buried in the region for at least 80 million years.

Ullmann stated that we were fortunate to have both a highly productive environment with abundant life and favorable geological conditions for burying remains.