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A mammoth discovery

mamtus Published Monday, 15th August 2016

Just before Easter, staff from Worcestershire County Council's Archive and Archaeology Service were called out to investigate the discovery of a mammoth tusk at Tarmac's quarry at Clifton...

...just South of Worcester.

The tusk was spotted by one of the plant drivers at the site who realising the importance of what he had uncovered reported it immediately to the quarry management. Tarmac immediately suspended operations in the vicinity of the tusk and contacted the local archaeological team with whom they work with on a regular basis.

Within less than 24 hours, Field Supervisor Graham Arnold along with Field Archaeologist and animal bone specialist James Spry were out on the site recording and recovering the tusk ready to bring it back to the archaeological offices at The Hive. Despite the great age of the tusk and it being well-embedded into the underlying gravel and sand, it was remarkably well-preserved and as the photographs they successfully recovered it in once piece. In addition, careful examination of the find spot and surrounding geology was made which may enable the period when the tusk was deposited to be estimated as well as how it came to be here.

An initial specialist assessment of the find confirms it to be the remains of a tusk from a Mammuthus primigenius, or Woolly Mammoth. Such animals once roamed the Worcestershire countryside around 50,000 years ago alongside our Neanderthal ancestors during a period of the human past called the Palaeolithic. The size of the tusk suggests that it was from a young male animal, which could have grown up to eleven feet height at the shoulder and weighed up to six tonnes.

Senior Archaeological Project Manager Robin Jackson said: "Thanks to the very prompt and responsible actions of the quarry staff we've been able to recover this very interesting find from Worcestershire's distant past. Discoveries of mega fauna (or giant animal) bones in Worcestershire are rare and therefore this find is an important one which will hopefully inspire people to learn more about Palaeolithic Worcestershire."

Nick Atkins, estates manager at Tarmac, said: “We’re excited that such a significant discovery has been made at our site and are very keen to see what else we can find out about it. It’s fantastic to discover something like this which is so well preserved and will help us and the specialists find out more about the creature and its history.”

The tusk has been slowly dried out and conserved by a specialist conservator Nigel Larkin. It will be on temporary display at Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery in Foregate Street, Worcester from Saturday August 20th. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10.30am – 4.30 pm.

Deborah Fox, Curator of Archaeology and Natural History at the museum has said: "We're delighted to be able to display this wonderful specimen and would like to pay tribute to Tarmac for their swift action and care of this important discovery, and to Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service's professionalism and expertise. It's been many decades since a specimen like this came into the City Museum and we're very pleased to have it here."