We don’t think we’ll ever see a big mammoth tusk in the wild. They should be shown in museums! However, according to University of Virginia researcher Adrienne Ghaly, if you’re in Alaska, you could just see one on the side of a river bank. Ghaly posted a photo of a woolly mammoth tusk jutting from an embankment on Alaska’s Koyukuk River near Coldfoot. The ivory has been buried beneath layers of rock and is now being held up with ropes to keep it from collapsing into the river as its foundation deteriorates.
The unusual sight of a massive fossil on an otherwise regular riverbank has piqued the interest of the internet, and Ghlay’s tweet has made people aware that Alaska is rich in woolly mammoth tusks and remnants. The species is thought to have been extinct around 4,000 years ago, and Alaska recognized it as the state fossil in 1986, indicating its prevalence.
Mammoth tusks can reveal a great deal about the creature’s existence. They are divided along the center, like tree rings, to examine the chemical isotopes contained therein. The isotopes differ by area and can reveal how far a mammoth went, as evidenced by the finding of a 17,000-year-old mammoth. It walked far enough to complete a full circuit of the Earth.
Finding mammoth tusks in Alaska is not uncommon, but it is still a unique find. And if you’re not from the state or don’t travel very frequently, finding one might seem like striking gold.
A photo of a woolly mammoth tusk sprouting from an Alaskan riverbed enthralled the internet.
Adrienne Ghaly, a researcher (and tusk photographer), provided further background for the tusk.