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Mammoth tusk found at Corvallis construction site
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Mammoth tusk found at Corvallis construction site

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For the second time in five years a visitor from 10,000 years ago has popped up when folks in Corvallis were digging in the dirt.

In January, 2016, some remains, including an intact femur, or upper leg bone, of a woolly mammoth were uncovered during Reser Stadium expansion work.

Tuesday, NW Natural crews found the tusk of a woolly mammoth at a construction site on Northwest Ninth Street near the site of old Izzy’s.

NW Natural was re-routing a gas pipeline at the request of the city of Corvallis, which will be doing water line and storm drain work in the area next spring and summer.

“While performing excavation work Tuesday, our crews found something that may be animal remnants,” said NW Natural spokesperson Elaina Medina. “Whenever doing this type of work, our crews are very careful to keep any eye out for any type of materials they may find while working that could be fragile or historic.

“As is our protocol, we stopped work immediately and contacted the property owner, as well as state agencies, to report the discovery and to begin an investigation to identify what was found.”

The property owner, because the work is being done in the right of way, was the city of Corvallis. Public Works project manager Jeff McConnell immediately reached out to Oregon State University’s Loren Davis, an anthropology professor in the College of Liberal Arts who directs a research group that focuses on archaeological sites from western North America that date from the Pleistocene era, more than 12,000 years ago.

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Davis, with help from other OSU researchers, played the lead role in identifying the Reser remains. Davis came out to Ninth Street and confirmed that what was is the trench was the tusk of another woolly mammoth.

“It is very similar to the Reser find,” Davis said. “The area has the same type of clay deposits as at Reser.”

Davis also noted that the mammoth probably was buried in the great Missoula floods of the Pleistocene era.

“It’s a bit of a mystery,” said Davis about the disappearance of the mammoth, which co-existed with early humans. “The world was changing structure to a post-glacial one. People also were present. There might have been environmental factors as well as hunting pressure. It could be lots of things.”

Early humans who used mammoth bones and tusks for making art, tools, and dwellings, and hunted the species for food.

Davis said that such mammoth finds are not that uncommon, noting in the past 20 years or so there have been discoveries in the Kings Valley area of Benton County, two in Woodburn, one in Hillsboro and also a mastodon, a somewhat close relative to the mammoth, in Tualatin.

Davis also said he often receives calls from farmers who have uncovered a piece of tusk or bone.

McConnell and the city also took advantage of Davis’ expertise on backfilling and securing the tusk, which is about 6 feet down in the trench. McConnell also noted that “the tusk extends into the trench wall and there could be more (pieces) in there.”

No decision has been made regarding the ultimate status of the tusk. NW Natural has completed its work, and the trench has been sealed.

“We’re in a pretty early stage of the decision,” McConnell said. “OSU was really good about working with us. They came out right way and we really appreciated that.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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