A mammoth discovery! Fossil hunters discover a 450,000-year-old tusk in a quarry in Cambridgeshire

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Fossil hunters made a huge discovery in Cambridgeshire last week: they unearthed a huge tusk dating back 450,000 years.

A gravel pit was the unlikely center of the great discovery when a few history buffs came across the remains of an ancient giant.

The well-preserved relic, found just below the surface of the sand, stands four feet tall and may have belonged to a male ‘steppe mammoth’ that roamed the Earth during the Ice Age.

Scientists believe that this Pleistocene species was one of the largest mammoths in history, reaching 4 meters in height and weighing 14 tons.

‘I could not believe my eyes. It stuck out like a sore thumb,” said Jamie Jordan, the founder and curator of Fossils Galore.

Fossils Galore’s ‘fossil hunting Beagle’ Crystal pictured with the 4ft tusk found in the quarry

STEPPE MAMMOTH VS THE WOOL MAMMOTH

STEPPE MAMMOTH

Era: Early to mid Pleistocene, approximately between 1.8 million and 200,000 years ago

Height: About 13ft

Weight: 14 tons

Woolly?: Thin coat

WOOLHAIRED MAMMOTH

Era: Epochs Pleistocene and Holocene, approximately between 300,000 and 10,000 years ago

Height: About 13ft

Weight: 6 tons

Woolly?: Heavy jacket

β€œNormally they break down when mined, but this one was whole. He was just lying on top of the floor – he was very heavy to lift.’

Mr Jordan and his colleague Sarah Moore have previously discovered mammoth teeth and bones in the same quarry.

Their ‘fossil-hunting Beagle’, Crystal, usually goes along too, but missed this time.

“She’s been trained to hunt fossils with us,” Mr Jordan told MailOnline.

“Unfortunately she wasn’t with us on this occasion but was excited to see the tusk and made a great scale for size.”

Although the pair had previously found a tusk of a woolly mammoth in this area, it was not as well preserved as this one.

After excavating the newest tusk, they carefully wrapped it up and took it back to the lab in the Cambridgeshire village of March.

Fossils Galore is now exploring what may have happened during the mammal’s life – with the creature surviving alongside cave lions, bears and even hippos.

Believe it or not, all of these species once roamed the land near Peterborough.

“We’ll be working on preserving the tusk over the next few months β€” it could take up to six months to do that,” Jordan said.

This relic, which lies just below the sand, is a whopping four feet tall and may have belonged to a male Ice Age 'steppe mammoth'

This relic, which lies just below the sand, is a whopping four feet tall and may have belonged to a male Ice Age ‘steppe mammoth’

Mr Jordan (left) and his colleague Sarah Moore (right) found the tusk in a quarry where they have previously picked up mammoth teeth and bones

Mr Jordan (left) and his colleague Sarah Moore (right) found the tusk in a quarry where they have previously picked up mammoth teeth and bones

After seeing it, it was carefully packed and returned to the laboratory in Cambridgeshire in March

Mammoths, cave bears and even hippos once roamed near Peterborough

After seeing the tusk, it was carefully packed and returned to the lab in the Cambridgeshire village of March

Scientists believe that steppe mammoths were one of the largest to ever walk the planet

Scientists believe that steppe mammoths were one of the largest to ever walk the planet

‘You can learn a lot about the animal by looking at the rings of the tusk – like looking at a tree trunk.

‘If the rings are tight, it shows that the habitat was not good and the food supply was poor. But if the rings are thick, then it shows that it had a good habitat.

“We will also look for signs of predation β€” whether early humans or other animals.”

While this is a huge achievement for Fossils Galore, Mr Jordan told MailOnline it’s not his favorite discovery.

“It’s one of our most exciting finds, but our best find yet is still the Iguanodon skeleton we found in 2017,” he said.

This extremely rare find – believed to be 132 million years old – was discovered in a brickworks in Surrey.

The herbivore, nicknamed Indie, would have been 10 feet tall, 30 feet long and weighed 4.5 tons β€” much like an African elephant.

“Indie was hidden in huge compacted clay blocks and was on a slope, which made the process difficult at times,” Jordan previously said.

“However, thanks to the hard work of the Fossils Galore volunteers, we were able to extract the remains and transport them to our preparation lab.”

WOOL MAMMOTHS EXPLAINED: THESE GIANT MAMMALS SROWED THE EARTH 10,000 YEARS AGO DURING THE PLEISTOCENE

The woolly mammoth roamed the icy tundra of Europe and North America for 140,000 years, disappearing at the end of the Pleistocene epoch, 10,000 years ago.

They are one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science, as their remains are often not fossilized, but frozen and preserved.

Males were about 3.5 meters long, while females were slightly smaller.

Curved tusks were up to 5 meters long and their underbellies had a coat of shaggy hair up to 1 meter long.

Small ears and short tails ensured that vital body heat was not lost.

Their trunks had “two fingers” on the end with which to pluck grass, twigs, and other vegetation.

The woolly mammoth is one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science, as their remains are often not petrified, but frozen and preserved (artist's impression)

The woolly mammoth is one of the best understood prehistoric animals known to science, as their remains are often not petrified, but frozen and preserved (artist’s impression)

They take their name from the Russian ‘mammut’, or earth mole, as the animals were believed to live underground and die on contact with light – which explains why they were always found dead and half-buried.

Their bones were once believed to belong to extinct giant races.

Woolly mammoths and modern-day elephants are closely related, sharing 99.4 percent of their genes.

The two species followed different evolutionary paths six million years ago, about the same time that humans and chimpanzees went their separate ways.

Woolly mammoths coexisted with early humans, who hunted them for food and used their bones and tusks for making weapons and art.