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Tusk found near Cunningham may be a Mammoth
Archaeologist Steven Roberts thinks the find of a mammoth tusk in Cunningham may be something bigger than just a big tooth. He was one of the first experts called in last week when construction workers putting in a sewer line made the discovery.
Roberts, as well as other experts and students from Wichita State examined the find more thoroughly Friday. The tusk is a great find, but it could be just the beginning.
"We know we got part of the skull too, and we know it was laying in its left side," he said Friday afternoon after leaving the site. The tusk was covered up again, and will be left buried until the state's universities get ready to do a full excavation.
Wichita State will lead the research teams, and right now it plans to do that in October. That is a pretty loose date and it could be moved to next spring depending on a lot of factors.
This is the third archaeological dig Roberts has been involved with, and he said it is always exciting to make such a discovery. He took part in one in Pratt several years ago.
"Usually you just find pieces. A tooth here or a leg there. This one has the potential of having a lot more intact animal," he said.
The tusk was found at about three and a half feet underground, and from the way it is laying, it could easily continue to a depth of 10 feet or more. He believes the site was the bottom of a stream bed, or even a river channel many thousand years ago. The discovered tusk itself is seven or eight feet long and four inches in diameter.
The tusk was discovered as workers were digging a sewer line on the property of Skyland Grain LLC in Cunningham. CEO David Crohn wants to get the universities involved, and have it on public display eventually. According to state law, any artifacts like this belong to the property owner.
He was quoted as saying he thought it was important to understand the significance of the find.
There is a Love's Truck Stop going in across the street, but that project should not be affected by this discovery, local officials said.
The immediate area where it was found will be excavated further, and will likely go 10 feet down or a little lower. The area could change depending on what else is discovered once the full blown excavation takes place.
Archaeologists from Wichita State agreed covering the tusk until it can be fully excavated is the best thing to do. It is likely very fragile, and much exposure to the sun could cause it to deteriorate rapidly.
Mammoths were very large creatures, weighing six tons or more, and had tusks that were eight feet long. They were huge plant eating animals, and it is believed that this area was lush in vegetation some 15,000 years ago.
Alan Albers, a member of the Kansas Archaeological Association, said there have been a few such bones found in the area over the last 50 years or so.
He said it is the most spectacular thing he has come across though.
The excavation in October should be interesting and could result in more parts of the large animal.