GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A Grand Rapids charity found part of a 12,000-year-old mastodon tooth and tusk among a truckload of donations.
"We found it on the floor of the truck after we unloaded it," John Timmer of In The Image told 24 Hour News 8.
At first, Timmer and other workers at In The Image thought the things rolling around on the floor of the truck used to pick up donations were pottery. But they turned out to be something with much more historic value.
"I picked it up and it looked strangely like a giant molar of an animal and you could see enamel on it, so it looked like a tooth to me," Timmer said.
Timmer kept the items on a shelf a while. Then, he called the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Upon examination, the items were found to be part of the tooth of a mastodon and what looks like the tip of a mastodon tusk.
The museum thinks someone had used them in a display at one time because they had a coat of lacquer on them.
"You can see where the lacquer is coming off here," Katie Moore of the Public Museum showed 24 Hour News 8. "It looks like probably about 10, 12 thousand years old, but we know nothing else about the piece."
It's still a mystery who owned the pieces and how they ended up into a truckload of donations. Timmer says the driver made several pickups that day and didn't remember where he got it.
In a way, that's a good thing because it means the museum can use the tooth and tusk in its educational program.
If they knew where the items came from, they would be more valuable and they'd have to care for them differently. But now, even children are allowed to handle them.
"For a child to be able to handle a 10,000-year-old mastodon tooth or tusk is just unbelievable," Moore said.
The museum actually has two mastodons in its collection. The big animals, which looked rather like hairy elephants, roamed the Great Lakes region more than 10,000 years ago.
"My first inclination was to donate it to the museum because it was kind of a cool piece of history, kind of a neat artifact," Timmer said.
Timmer says they get a lot of useful donations and occasionally some unusual things. The tooth and tusk he says are now at the top of that list.
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