A crane operator in San Francisco has unearthed a woolly mammoth tooth, which could date back almost 11,000 years, on Monday.
The fossil was discovered while the operator was working on a transit project, and Paleontologist James Allen believes the fossil is in good condition and may be between 10,000 and 11,000 years old, reports Yahoo! News. Allen stated:
“The Bay was a grassy valley with herds of these extinct critters just roaming around. It’s a big deal, so we can study it, get some age dates, which help us figure out tectonics [and] seismicity like the San Andreas Fault.”
The fragment of tooth is 10 inches long and was found by Brandon Valasik about 110 feet underground. Valasik stated:
“I was excavating using a hammer grab and going through a layer of sand, when suddenly I noticed some strange object that came out. A few people tried to convince me that it was just a rock, but it just looked too perfect to be a rock.”
Other woolly mammoth fossils have been discovered in the Bay Area, according to Allen, who stated that they have been found in San Francisco and near Twin Peaks, notes The San Francisco Chronicle.
After finding the tooth, Valasik stopped digging and showed the discovery to a boss, who took photos and sent them to Allen. Valasik stated that he had seen woolly mammoth bones before at the Smithsonian but said, “I never expected to find part of one.”
While excavation work in the area was halted while the tooth was examined, Allen stated that the depth of the discovery makes it unsafe and unrealistic to send someone down to inspect. Because of this, digging was allowed to continue with construction crews keeping an eye on the diggings.
Allen believes the tooth came from a Columbian mammoth, which is a relative to the modern elephant. Bones from Columbian mammoths were discovered in the La Brea Tar Pits in downtown Los Angeles. He stated that the tooth will most likely be donated to the California Academy of Sciences, though the Transbay Transit Center may put it on display first.
Transbay authorities believe that, along with the woolly mammoth tooth, they may have also unearthed a jawbone.