Jerusalem, Aug 31 (EFE).- The Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday the discovery of a complete elephant’s tusk 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long dating to half a million years ago.
The straight tusk belonged to a member of the long-extinct Palaeoloxodon antiquus species and was unearthed near the Revadim kibbutz in Israel’s southern plains during a joint excavation with researchers from Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University.
Although at present Israel’s central plain is near the Negev Desert and quite arid, half a million years ago, when these ancient elephants lived, the area is thought to have been a swamp or a shallow lake, an ideal habitat for ancient hominids that apparently hunted these beasts.
The discovery “sheds new light on the fascinating life of prehistoric humanity,” said the AAI, whose archaeologists, paleontologists and other officials have analyzed the find.
The tusk is “exceptionally well preserved” because it was buried for hundreds of thousands of years.
Dr. Eitan Mor, a biologist working in Jerusalem, was the first researcher to come across the tusk while he was visiting the area out of curiosity after reading about prehistoric elephants. “To my surprise,” he said, “I spotted something that looked like a large animal bone peeping out of the ground. When I looked closer, I realized that it was the real thing”
Mor rushed to report the find to the AAI, which launched an intensive two-week investigation dubbed “Operation Elephant” to unearth the tusk.
AAI prehistorian Avi Levy said that stone and flint tools dating to the Late Lower Paleolithic period have been discovered in the area where the tusk was found, along with animal bones, including elephants, “But finding this half-a-million-year-old complete elephant tusk in such a good condition is something else!”
He added that it is “the largest complete fossil tusk ever found at a prehistoric site in Israel or the Near East.”
This species of straight-tusked elephants, which only lived in a few places and were larger than modern-day African elephants, appeared in the region about 800,000 years ago became extinct 400,000 years later. They coexisted with other large mammals, including wild cattle, hippopotamuses, deer, wild boars and wild horses.