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Ed Sweetman holds up the tusk that was found approximately where he is standing in the gravel pit his crew is currently excavating.

Tusk discovery linked to prehistoric mastodon

By Kyleen Olson


Ed Sweetman has uncovered a rare find.

While mining gravel south of Currie, one of Ed Sweetman’s Gravel employees noticed something he thought was a tree root.

“You don’t want wood mixed with the asphalt,” Sweetman explained. As he bent down to remove the object, he noticed it wasn’t what he thought it was.  Upon further examination, the two men decided it might be a tusk and called the paleontologists at the Jeffers Petroglyphs to take a look.

The object was confirmed to be a tusk from a mastodon that lived from 12,000 to 30,000 years ago.

At the time of the discovery, the gravel workers were pushing gravel up with the dozer, so the exact location it came from is unknown.

“We think we know, but we aren’t sure,” Sweetman said. They are currently leaving the area alone in case there is anything else that can be found.

“There isn’t any gravel in the tusk itself,” which leads one to believe it broke off  from the rest of the remains.

The mastodon was an elephant-like creature that became extinct in North America 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. The herd-dwelling animal could be more than 10-feet tall at the shoulder, and weigh more than 10 tons.

The Sweetman mastodon could have travelled down to the Currie area with the Wisconsin glacier that moved approximately 100,000 years ago when the climate cooled and the Laurentide Ice Sheet spread across the northern part of the continent.  Toward the end of the cycle of this glacier, around 26,000 years ago, it began to decent into Wisconsin. For another 10,000 years the glacier expanded south before the climate warmed and it started to melt. After another 6,500 years the ice was finally retreating from northern Wisconsin. This animal could have been deceased and come down with the ice cap. However, it is possible that it died in this area.

There are plans for the paleontologists from Jeffers to dig the site and look for more animal remains. The tusk will also be taken to the Minnesota Science Museum in the Twin Cities at some point to be carbon dated to find out exactly how old the remains are.

Sweetman has been mining gravel for the street construction going on in Tracy and in Currie. Gravel pits aren’t found in just anywhere.

“They generally run along the river,” Sweetman said.

This is the first time he has found a pre-historic object while mining gravel.


School bells ring Tuesday

District 2904 students will head back to school next week.

The first day of class is Tuesday, Sept. 1 for Tracy Elementary, Tracy Area High School, and St. Mary’s School.  Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the elementary school, 8:02 to 3:05 at the high school and 8:06 a.m. to 3 p.m. at St. Mary’s.

After classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week, there will be no class on Friday, Sept. 4, and Monday, Sept. 7 (Labor Day).

Tracy Elementary School is hosting its annual open house Thursday, August 27, from 5 to 7 p.m.  Students and parents will be able to meet teachers and visit their home rooms.  The school’s computer lab will be available for parents to fill out registration and health forms, and pay for school lunches.