By DUANE NOLLEN
Researchers at the mammoth dig site in rural Mahaska County discovered a mammoth tusk Sunday morning that was at least 4 feet long.
“It’s a huge tusk,” said Dr. Jim North of William Penn University.
“We found it today,” said Dave Brenzel of the Indian Creek Nature Center. “It’s a male.”
Sarah Horgen of the University of Iowa Natural History Museum is coordinating the research effort at the dig site. So far, fossils of two mammoths have been found there. Sunday morning, a research team from Iowa State University as well as an Oskaloosa Elementary School teacher were among the group of 20 volunteers working at the site.
The group was working in the eastern portion of the dig site that was excavated Friday when they discovered the tusk. Musco Lighting officials arranged for a work crew from Exodus Landscaping to bring an excavator and a bulldozer to the location to enlarge the dig site.
Brenzel said the walls of the dig site were starting to cave in because of the water level. So, the enlarged site will allow for more volunteers to search for fossils of mammoths. The excavation crew also brought in a larger water pump to drain the dig site.
“It was moving a lot of muck,” Brenzel said.
North was overseeing a group of volunteers sifting through dirt to find more fossils.
The tusk researchers found Sunday morning was fragmented. Since the water table has dropped in the area, the tusk had been out of the water and has dried out.
“It’s been exposed for a while,” North said. “It’s going to start fragmenting.”
North and the volunteers found small fragments of ivory and dentin from the interior of a tusk.
“It’s tedious and exciting,” North said of sifting through buckets full of earth to find the tusk fragments.
Scientists also received the results of a radiocarbon date test on a log recently discovered at the site. Brenzel said the log dates back to 14,000 B.C.
“It’s contemporaneous with these mammoths,” he said.