A group of amateur archaeologists participating in a field walk off a British coastline has discovered an ancient mammoth tusk measuring 6 feet long.
Members and volunteers of the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network, or CITiZAN, found the ancient relic during an unusually low-tide off the coast of Mersea Island on Thursday morning.
Climate Change, Changing Sea Levels Expose Ancient Tusk
Gustav Milne, from the Museum of London Archaeology, explained that changing sea levels and climate change have caused severe erosion on British coastlines exposing archaeological objects.
Milne, who is also CITiZAN project leader, urged beach-walkers to report any unusual pieces of object that may turn out to be archaeological treasures such as the mammoth tusk. Milne explained that these objects are likely in the process of destruction citing that coastline erosions are both an agent of discovery and an agent of destruction.
Discovered During A Field Walk
The tusk was discovered by four volunteers during a field walk, in which the participants walk along the stretch of the beach and record what they find. They found the relic more than half a mile from the coast off Coopers Beach in Essex. The discovery was made when the tides were at the lowest point of the year.
"A small and pointy feature poking out between the shingle and sands and was spotted by our eagle eyed volunteers," wrote Oliver Hutchinson on the CITiZAN's blog. "With a little cleaning of the area they were able to reveal the tusk of this beast from the east (of Mersea), a whopping 2m long!"
In Situ Observations
Mammoths have long been extinct so the tusk found is very old. This also means that the ivory was very fragile and would get damaged when touched and lifted out. To prevent such damage, the volunteers decided to gather samples and images of the tusk right at where it was found before covering it up again. The data and photographs gathered were used to produce a model. The team also collected some sands and clay underneath and around the tusk for analysis.
The Extinct Mammoths
The mammoth lived during the last Ice Age but because of a combination of factors, which include hunting and the changing climate, mammoths became extinct some 4,000 years ago.
Remains of this prehistoric creature, however, continue to be found largely because of climate change. In Russia, ivory mammoth tusks are being found in the Siberian tundra because the warmer weathers have melted the permafrost where the tusks were buried.
Fossils and remains of the mammoth offer researchers idea about how the creatures looked like, how big they were and their characteristics shedding more light on this close relative of the modern elephant and the environment they lived in thousands of years ago.
A woolly mammoth found in the Arctic in 2012 showed hints that it died of injuries caused by ivory and stone tools suggesting that humans were around earlier than previously believed in an area scientists thought was uninhabited by people at the time.