CLARKSTON, Wash. - Construction crews digging near Clarkston unearthed some very old bones last week that researchers say could be a Columbia Mammoth.
The bones were found last Thursday just outside of Clarkston.
It's not uncommon to find mammoth or other ancient animal bones in Washington. However what will make this find significant is if they discover traces of ancient humans along with other bones.
"I've seen a lot of horse bones and cow bones and it's definitely bigger than that," said Dr. Lee Sappington, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Idaho.
At first glance the two pieces of first sized bone don't look like much.
"And you can tell elephants apart based on their teeth. So we're assuming it's a mammoth but we just have it," Sappington said.
But it's a good indicator of what could be buried nearby.
"Sure it made a nice crunch when they broke it. So we're going to start off trying to find a better context for it and that's going to take a while," Sappington said.
Sappington said mammoth bones have been found in almost every county in Washington.
"So just a few bones in a construction zone is interesting but it's not that interesting," Sappington said.
Tuesday was the first time Sappington and several University of Idaho grad students visited the site. They'll slowly dig down to the 12 foot depth where the first pieces were found, looking for larger intact bones or tusks and if they're lucky find traces of ancient humans. That would make things infinitely more interesting. In the meantime, they're asking people to stay away, which is why KXLY will not disclose the exact location the bones were found.
"I want people to be interested but if they disturb the site that might destroy it forever," Sappington said.
The depth where crews found the bone could help point to the animal's age; right now Sappington thinks it's part of a front leg. If a full skeleton or human tools are uncovered this could be a huge discovery, if not it could turn out to be just a few fragments of mammoth bone.
"Well you have to stay optimistic you have to stay excited because this is a real opportunity," Sappington said.
Once again, people are discouraged from going out there with their own shovels to try to find pieces of other bones near this site. Researchers say they'll know about what's underground in about a week.