9/18/19 ASHLAND, Ohio - Over the summer, Dr. Nigel Brush, AU professor of Geology, has been kept busy identifying various rocks, fossils and human artifacts exposed by recent heavy rains and flash floods here in NE Ohio. While this summer’s heavy rains were not good for farmers, as well as some home owners living near streams, it was a windfall for geologists and archaeologists as nature accidentally revealed some of the ancient treasures buried beneath the earth’s surface.
The fossil that has generated the greatest interest was a mammoth tooth found by a 12-year-old boy in a stream bed near the Inn at Honey Run, located a few miles outside the town of Millersburg in Holmes County. Nigel confirmed that this large tooth was indeed a mammoth tooth. He and Jeff Dilyard (a member of the Ashland/Wooster/Columbus Archaeological and Geologic Consortium) subsequently visited the Inn to examine the tooth and the find location. With permission from the Inn owner, Jason Niles, they surveyed the stream bed and banks upstream from the find site, but found no additional mammoth teeth or bones.
Two types of mammoth lived in Ohio during the Ice Age: Woolly Mammoth and Jefferson Mammoth. These mammoths had four large teeth (two upper and two lower). As the ridges on each tooth wore down by grinding grasses and small seeds, the tooth was shoved forward in the jaw by a new tooth until the old tooth fell out. Over their lifetime of 60-80 years, a mammoth would have six complete sets of teeth. Therefore, a single mammoth might lose some 20 teeth before developing its final set of teeth.
Another member of the elephant family that lived in Ohio during the Ice Age was the American Mastodon. Mastodons were slightly smaller than mammoths and had pointed cusps on their teeth rather than ridges. These two different tooth types represent two different diets: mammoths
were grazers, while mastodons were browsers, eating a greater variety of vegetation such as leaves and twigs from bushes. Mastodons are more common in eastern North America while mammoth are more abundant in the Great Plains and West – although their ranges overlapped. Therefore, finding a mammoth tooth in Ohio tends to generate a bit more interest than that of a mastodon.
The relative scarcity of mammoth teeth in Ohio, as well as the human interest component of a young boy finding the tooth, led to a lot of press coverage. The story first appeared in the Holmes County Farmer Hub and the Wooster Daily Record, and then other newspapers in Cleveland, Columbus, and elsewhere, including the New York Daily News. After that, the story appeared on television news stations in Cleveland and Youngstown, and finally made its way into national and international news by way of CBS News, CNN, and Apple News. Dr. Brush said it was quite a lot of press exposure for spending about a minute looking at a picture of a tooth and confirming it was from a mammoth.
Left, a mammoth or mastodon tusk from Richland County.
Right, a mammoth tooth found in Fairfield County.
Following the Holmes County discovery, Nigel received a photo from another Consortium member, Jerry Ball, of a large piece of mammoth or mastodon tusk that had recently been found in a gravel pit in Richland County. He was also given photos of a mammoth tooth that were recently sent to Dr. Greg Wiles at the College of Wooster. A woman in Lancaster, Fairfield County, had found this tooth in a stream bed there some eight years ago. The tooth had been rounded and eroded as it was washed downstream. Since there is no flat grinding surface on the tooth, it may have only been starting to erupt when the mammoth died – note
the unflattened ridges on the two teeth at the back of the mammoth jaw at the following web site: https://faopalfossils.