Exploring abrupt climate change induced by comets and asteroids during human history


I was chilling with the family two weeks ago at Atlantis, Bahamas, when to my surprise an additional mammoth tusk entered my life. I got a hush-hush email and photo from a friend and long-time employee telling me that our contractor’s brand new Volvo excavator was at that moment assisting in the excavation of a large mammoth tusk and skull.

I was aware since 2007 that the stream channels Restoration Systems was restoring on the property (to off-set other development in the watershed) had revealed bones of extinct ice age mammals. A camel tooth and other Camelops parts had been found, and subsequent dirt scratching had revealed Toxodon remains  — resulting in Toxodon’s most northerly and only N. American occurrence. Cool!

But at the time funds were apparently not available for further investigation. So outside of asking our operators to keep an eye out, and maintaining a faint interest in perhaps pitchin’ in someday to dig the blue-tarped site myself, (which we had left out of our project easement), the old bones were not my principal interest in the property.

It turns out that researchers had not turned their back on the site. Further excavation was commenced this Spring, apparently led by a private enthusiast who sought the help of our equipment as I lay by the pool. Since we returned I have spoken once to the landowner (RS only owns the mitigation easement) and she is putting me in touch with the researcher.

At this point everything is under wraps, literally and figuratively. The 11-foot long (!) brittle tusk has been plastered as seen in the photo and moved to safe keeping. And the owner and researcher are considering their options while not revealing the location or announcing the discovery at this time.



13 Responses

  1. Hi George –

    There are five known mammoth/mastodon sites at the southern end of the Natchez Trace, and no money to excavate them.

  2. Good point, Trent. Need to get out in front of the curve, you might say. I’ll post SOMETHING tomorrow.

    Also, I would recommend readers jump over to WUWT and make yourselves known. Those people are largely ignorant and need your teaching.

  3. No, Trent – Murmansk and Chelyabinsk are not on the same latitude.

    Murmansk is at 68°57′.

    The Chelyabinsk event was at 55°09′.

    The Tunguska event was at 60°55′.

    I am the one that said Chelyabinsk and Tunguska were on the same latitude – and that was my bad. I misread something.

  4. George –

    Looking at what is available in the “Tell-tale Tusk” paper and images, these questions come to mind:

    Q1: If it was nitric acid rain that fell, why are the effects on both sides of the tusk?

    Q2: Why would there be no pitting farther up near the end of the tusk? Why only near the alveolus?

    Because of those two curiosities, I get the impression that nitric acid rain might not be the right track for investigation. Perhaps responses to the questions will ease my concerns.

    (At this point I have no alternate explanations….)

  5. Also:

    Q3: If it was nitric acid rain strong enough to dissolve tusk ivory, what about the rain that fell on the mammoth’s hairy back and head? If the mammoth survived that acid bath long enough to allow the tusk to dissolve, but then to have some sort of active life afterward, then all the more pertinent is Q2. It seems ODD that a mammoth would be able to survive such an acidic rain.

    All of this reinforces my quizzical reaction to this hypothesis.

  6. Well Steve Garcia, since you commented on my hypothesis about the Tell-Tale Tusk,
    (I’ll present details at the VI Mammoth Conference in Greece May 5-9), I’ll tell
    you why there is no pitting further along the tusk (away from the mammoth’s head).

    Most of the exposed portion of the tusk is smaller in diameter and polished, so the animal
    was alive while this dissolution process was going on.
    It was polished by the day-to-day activities of the mammoth moving around in its environment
    and rubbing its (surface-softened) tusks against tall grasses, rocks, trees, whatever.

    The pristine portion of the tusk was up inside the mammoth’s head and thus protected
    from the atmosphere. The portion near where it emerges from the tusk socket (the alveolus)
    is not polished because that portion of the tusk is covered by a flap of skin, near
    the trunk, and it could not rub that part of its trunk against anything to polish it.
    Hence the dissolution pattern is crisp.

    A pH of 2.0 is reasonable according to Prinn and Fegley 1987 (they reconstruct a pH of 1.0 – 2.0),
    and pH of 2.0 is the strength of lemon juice. I expect its fur
    would help protect most of its skin from any kind of rain. However the lemon juice
    rain might remove oils from its fur and skin.

    YOU, Steve Garcia, and any other humans or herbivores,
    could certainly survive eating a salad with lemon juice on it. Therefore
    it is not a stretch to envision this mammoth living in such an environment.

    Lemon juice will dissolve teeth, and antler material and tusks.

    Joanne 🙂

  7. Joanne –

    Thanks for the response. Your description of what happened to the tusk didn’t seem to cover the whole tusk. I was clear that the portion inside the skin was certainly protected from the nitric acid rain. The portion that I was most interested in was the portion that was exposed near the tip. I was asking why that portion wasn’t also acid etched, the part that you talk about being “smaller in diameter and polished.” Wouldn’t that have been acid etched, too? It would have been every bit as exposed as the exposed portion just outside the skin, wouldn’t it?


  8. Hi Steve,

    Near the tusk tip? It would get polished. The entire exposed length of the tusk would get surfically
    dissolved/softened, and that softened surface would be scraped off by the animal rubbing its tusk on things in the environment. Only the undisturbed portion of the tusk that did not come in contact with hard objects, would exhibit the crisp dissolution pattern. this might be just outside the flap of skin, but
    as the animal was eating vegetation (lemon juice salad) all day long, the process of stuffing the vegetation into its mouth would introduce acid to the tusk under that flap of skin.

    Joanne 🙂

  9. Joanne –

    Don’t I wish! I LOVE Greece. For now, though, other things and only so much money to go around…

    Thanks for the invite!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe for Updates

Tax deductible donations to the Comet Research Group can be made here