North Dakota Coal Miners Unearth an Ice Age Surprise

They find a 7-foot-long mammoth tusk, part of one of the state's most complete specimens
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2023 10:10 AM CST
North Dakota Coal Miners Unearth an Ice Age Surprise
The newly discovered tusk is about 7 feet long.   (North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources)

Coal miners in North Dakota found something wholly unexpected among the rocks they scooped up and unloaded into a pile—a 7-foot-long tusk of an Ice Age mammoth dead for tens of thousands of years. The rare find over Memorial Day weekend occurred at the Freedom Mine near Beulah, and it's just being revealed now by the state's Department of Mineral Resources. Further excavation revealed about 20 other bones believed to have belonged to the same mammoth, and all are being cleaned and assembled to get a better sense of the animal, reports the Bismarck Tribune.

The find is described as one of the state's most complete specimens, with most of the earlier mammoth discoveries being "isolated bones and teeth," according to the state agency. Neighboring South Dakota has had better luck finding more complete mammoths, notes the Washington Post. "You don't really expect to see this full curved tusk just [lying] there in perfect condition after being dumped out of the back of a dump truck," paleontologist Clint Boyd of the North Dakota Geological Survey tells the Post.

Mammoths roamed what is now North Dakota until about 10,000 years ago. However, the early thinking on the new discovery is that this particular animal lived long before that, on the upper end of a range from 10,000 to 100,000 years ago, per the Tribune. Paleontologists also found evidence of an ancient stream near the site where the tusk was found, and more of the animal's bones in the stream's path, raising the possibility that it drowned. (More mammoths stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.