A 10-year-old boy has unearthed a 1.2 million year old Stegomastodon skull after tripping over the ancient find in the New Mexico dessert.
Young Jude Sparks became an accidental archaeologist after chancing upon the skull of a Stegomastodon, an extinct elephant like creature with enormous tusks. It was the last thing that he expected while out on a family hike in La Crucas last November.
Jude didn’t realise at first the enormity of his find, and didn’t even know what the remains were:
I was running farther up and I tripped on part of the tusk. My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I look farther up and there was another tusk,
I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.
His brother Hunter also had no idea how special his brother’s discovery was and believed ‘it was just a big fat rotten cow’.
The boys’ parents assumed that it was the remains of an elephant and took a picture. They then contacted Professor Peter Houde at New Mexico State University, who instantly understood the rarity of the archaeological find.
According to Professor Houde:
It was incredibly exciting because fossils in this condition are extremely rare. We know that they exist here but you can hardly ever find them. So we were very excited, but we did not know how much was there
Prehistoric remains are incredibly brittle and fragile and are therefore usually eroded after being exposed for too long to the elements.
The Sparks family were very fortunate that they chanced upon the specimen after heavy rainfall had unearthed it. They also had the good sense to leave the remains well alone and wait for a professional to arrive.
Dr Houde and his team were able to excavate the enormous skull back in May and once their work is done, they hope to make this fascinating piece of natural history available to the public.
The Stegomastodon is a majestic ancestor of the elephants which walked the earth within the last few million years. It is even believed that they were hunted by early humans…
You can watch the team in action in the following clip:
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As for budding palaeontologist Jude, his adventures in the dessert have rekindled his fascination in all things to do with dinosaurs and fossils, a phase he went through between the ages of 5 and 8.
What a cool story to tell your mates at school…