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Construction workers unearth quite the find beneath the work site.

Unearthed mammoth tusk going to a museum

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Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Saturday, February 15, 2014, 2:16 PM -

Who knew the most popular attraction in Seattle would be a dirt-filled hole in the ground?

iPhone-toting onlookers thronged to a construction site in the northwestern U.S. city on Friday to catch a glimpse of a huge mammoth tusk, unearthed by construction workers around 9 m down earlier in the week.

History buffs and paleontologists were temporarily on edge - it seems the United States has few laws governing finds of this type - so it was a relief to many when the landowner announced he would be donating the tusk to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington.

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Woolly mammoths have been extinct for around 10,000 years, although isolated pockets likely lasted for a few thousand years more.

They once roamed freely across North America and Europe, but their remains are actually very rare, according to Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies and Montana State University.

"We don't find them every year or even every five years,'' he told the Associated Press, adding even when they're found on construction sites, they're destroyed by machinery before being noticed.

The last big prehistoric mammal remains found in Washington were in the 1970s, Horner said, and the tusk found last week in Seattle, measuring almost 3 m, is the largest found in the Seattle area.

Rare though they area, mammoth tusks are occasionally found in Canada, mostly in the Yukon. The biggest breakthrough in mammoth research came last year, when Russian researchers on Siberia's Wrangel Island found a mostly-intact mammoth carcass, including well-preserved blood.

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