The mammoth tusk uncovered at a construction site in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood has been successfully removed and transported to the Burke Museum where it will begin the preservation process.
Burke Museum paleontologist Dr. Christian Sidor tells KIRO Radio’s Ron & Don Show that the tusk will now be drying in its plaster casing for up to a year.
“This is an entirely water-logged fossil right now and if you scratched it, it would be sort of the consistency of a crayon. You can break it with your fingernail. So it’s going to take a long time to actually dry it out very, very slowly.”
As the tusk dries, Burke conservators will slowly begin removing the plaster and repairing any damage to the tusk. The 8.5 foot tusk, believed to be from a Columbian Mammoth, was the only fossil found at the site.
Dr. Sidor says predators and scavengers typically eat all remains except tusks and teeth because they have no calories. He says it also appears the tusk may have been traveling in an old riverbed.
“This was probably either a glacier-fed stream or river type environment, and so it may have died somewhere else and been washed downstream,” says Sidor. “We can’t be 100 percent sure.”
Burke paleontologists also collected sediment every 10 centimeters around the find and say it will be part of a long-term project to reconstruct what the environment was like during the time of the mammoth and afterward.