Scientists hoist tusk from Seattle pit

  • By Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press
  • Friday, February 14, 2014 5:25pm
  • Local NewsNorthwest

SEATTLE — To the sound of cheers, a fossilized mammoth tusk found in a Seattle construction site has been retrieved from a 30-foot-deep pit in downtown Seattle, and it’s on its way to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Scientists and construction crews used a crane to retrieve and hoist the tusk from the pit to a waiting flatbed truck. The tusk was placed on a pallet, encased in plaster and covered in blankets.

The tusk is believed to be from a Columbian mammoth. It was measured at 8.5 feet long after researchers cleared enough dirt overnight to fully expose it.

Paleontologist Christian Sidor says the tusk is between 22,000 and 60,000 years old.

Construction workers found it Tuesday about 30 feet below street level, thinking at first that it might be a pipe or a root.

The fossil eventually will go on display. However, it’s water-logged, and scientists say properly restoring and preserving it could take at least a year.

The company building a 118-unit apartment complex at the site has nearly stopped construction to accommodate the scientists.

No more fossils were found during the overnight dig, the museum said Friday.

“Generally tusks like these are the last thing left” after animals and time remove the bones and the rest of the creature, Sidor said.

The tusk’s fate was entirely up to the landowner, who decided to donate it to the Burke Museum. Costs of the delay aren’t known yet, said Scott Koppelman of AMLI Residential, which also owns apartment complexes to the south and west of the construction site.

Fossilized mammoth remains have been found numerous times in the Seattle area and across the state, so much so that the Columbian mammoth is the state’s official fossil.

Still, most of the Burke Museum’s collection is fragments. The tusk found this week would be one of the largest and most intact specimens found.

The museum’s collection has 25 mammoth fossils from King County, including a tooth that was found a few blocks away from the tusk when the Mercer Street on ramp to Interstate 5 was built years ago.

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