July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Yet Another Historical Find

2 min read

Paleontology and archaeology must be two of the most exciting careers imaginable. This is not because I share in the world’s wide-eyed, naïve view that all archaeologists live the lifestyle of Indiana Jones. While I am sure that there are some paleontologists and archaeologists that live drab and uneventful lifes, the ones that come into the big finds–I mean the mind-blowing, earth-shattering finds–get to experience every day like it is Christmas morning (or more appropriately, like finding the grand prize in an Easter egg hunt).


In recent news the tusk of, what is believed to be, a Columbian mammoth was found in Seattle, Washington. The tusk is believed to be at least 16,000 years old. There are some, however, that believe that it could be as old as 60,000 years old. [1][2][3]

How grand would it be to physically unearth a find such as this?

Possibly the best news is that the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture now has the mammoth tusk safe in its facility.

The following excerpt tells, from start to finish, how the construction crew got the tusk out of the ground and to the Burke Museum.

On Thursday, using shovels, trowels and brushes, Burke staffers dug out the earth around the tusk so that eventually it was sitting on four dirt pedestals.

Using 2-by-4s for extra support, the tusk was wrapped in paper and aluminum foil, then a plaster-soaked burlap placed on two-thirds of it.

The staffers ran out of plaster, and Stein drove to the Home Depot store on Utah Avenue South.

A woman employee told Stein the store was closed for the night, and Stein said she was ready to leave.

Stein said her husband, retired UW geology Professor Stan Chernicoff — “a New York guy” — then said, “Come on, let’s ask if she’ll open it up.”

They did.

The managers inside had heard about the tusk discovery, and donated four 25-pound bags of plaster, said Stein.

So the legend of the tusk keeps growing.

On Friday afternoon, some 75 people stopped by to oooh and ahhh, and take photos as construction workers hoisted the tusk out of the dirt.

Woolly you be my Valentine?

Unfortunately, for those wanting to see the tusk, it might be quite some time before it is made available to the public. Due to the fragile condition of the tusk, it will remain in a plaster casing for a year or  two, so that it can dry naturally.

Below are a few of the pictures from the move made available by the San Francisco Gate. Check out the full gallery for more.

[1] San Francisco Gate: Mammoth tusk lifted from Seattle construction pit

[2] CNN: Fossilized mammoth tusk removed from Seattle construction site

[3] The Seattle Times: Tusk safely in museum, time to name Seattle’s mammoth