Massive Woolly Mammoth Tooth Discovered by Construction Workers

A worker in Sheldon, Iowa made a mammoth discovery while working on a construction site earlier this month — literally. DGR Engineering employee Justin Blauwet discovered an 11-pound woolly mammoth tooth as he was working at the construction site performing observation on a lift station project for the City of Sheldon. According to DGR Engineering the tooth, which had been uncovered during excavation, looked like a block of stone at first glance but Blauwet realized what it was thanks to a lifelong interest in fossils and pre-historic animals.

"I'm a 'nerd' like that," Blauwet said. DGR asked paleontology repository instructor at University of Iowa Tiffany Adrain to verify that it was, in fact a woolly mammoth tooth. Adrain indicated that while mammoth remains themselves are not uncommon, this particular find was lucky.

"While discovery of mammoth remains is not uncommon in Iowa, once the bones and teeth are out in the open, they can fall apart and disappear quickly because they are not completely fossilized," she said.  "This was a lucky find."

The tooth weighs 11 pounds and is just under a foot long. It has been identified as being an upper 3rd molar from an animal that was probably in its early 30s when it died, according to Chris Widga, Head Curator at East Tennessee State University. The tooth will be on display Sheldon's Sheldon Prairie Museum as part of a semi-permanently loaned display.

"NCC already has many connections with its communities forged throughout the past half-century. When Blauwet discovered this woolly mammoth tooth, it uncovered an even deeper connection – one that now ties our campus property way back to the prehistoric era of the retreating glaciers!" Dr. John Hartog, NCC President said. "Since NCC is the public college for all of its communities, we are happy to display the tooth in the Sheldon Prairie Museum as a semi-permanently loaned display. This way, everyone from across our service area can come to the museum to see and appreciate this artifact. We might display it at the College for special occasions, but we will house the artifact in the Sheldon Prairie Museum."

Hartog continued, "The tooth itself serves as a dramatic reminder of the power of partnerships: DGR Engineering, an industry partner, found the tooth during an excavation project for the City of Sheldon, a municipal partner, while digging on the property of the College. The College will house its tooth in a museum, an educational partner, so everyone can enjoy it. This is an example of how great results come from dynamic partnerships in northwest Iowa."