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Crane operator extracts wooly mammoth tooth in San Francisco!

Awhile ago, I wrote about the Transbay Archaeology Exhibit.

There are all SORTS of things to be found! 😉

Crane operator Brandon Valasik was excavating a 200-foot-deep hole on Monday, inside a steel casing for one of the 181 pilings that will form a buttress wall for the huge Transbay Transit Center under construction in San Francisco. As he dug through a layer of dark sand, about 110 feet down, he dumped a scoop of soil that contained an unusual object that looked like a rock, except for its shape and color. The 10-inch-long brown, black and beige object, broken in two and missing a chunk, once belonged to a woolly mammoth, one of the creatures that inhabited the grassy valley that is now San Francisco some 10-15 thousand years ago, in the Pleistocene epoch!

According to

Other woolly mammoth fossils have been found in the Bay Area, including in San Francisco about 2 miles away on Columbus Avenue, near Twin Peaks and in Hunters Point, said Jim Allen, a paleontologist and geologist for the project. The tooth, he said, is in remarkable condition with the enamel still intact, and has not deteriorated to the point of most fossils.

“It’s a significant find,” he said Wednesday. “It’s unique to find something right smack in downtown San Francisco.”

Given the depth of the construction, it would be unsafe to send someone down to inspect the site, so the digging was allowed to continue. Transbay officials also believe that they may have discovered a jaw!

While he hasn’t had time to do much research on the tooth, Allen said it appears to be from a Columbian mammoth, a relative to the modern elephant. Woolly mammoths were common in the Bay Area during the Ice Age, he said, a time in which there was no bay and the Pacific Ocean was far away. He likened it to Africa today.

“It was a zoo here,” he said. “Mammoths, mastodons, short-faced bears, saber-toothed cats, they were all hanging out. … If you could go back to the Bay Area 10, 15 thousand years ago, it would be a pretty wild scene.”

The tooth will probably be donated to the California Academy of Sciences (photo above) in Golden Gate Park.

The crane operator, meanwhile, has been nicknamed, “Manny” after the woolly mammoth in the Ice Age movies! :-)

-Bill at

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