Archeologists have uncovered a giant prehistoric elephant tusk during a two-week excavation near Kibbutz Revadim in southern Israel.
The 2.5-meter-long remnant of the huge straight-tusked elephant was discovered by Dr. Eitan Mor, a biologist from Jerusalem during the excavation by Tel Aviv University and the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev dubbed ‘Operation Elephant.’
Archeologists disclosed the discovery on Wednesday, August 31st, and according to a statement by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), Dr. Mor organized a trip to the area out of curiosity about the elephants.
Dr. Mor said, “To my surprise, 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,’ so I rushed to report it to the Israel Antiquities Authority.”
The discovery of the tusk has led to questions over its presence at Revadim, according to Prof. Ofer Marder of Ben-Gurion University and Dr. Ianir Milevski of the IAA’s Prehistoric Branch.
Both academics further posed a question: “Is the tusk the remains of a hunted elephant, or did the local prehistoric inhabitants collect it? Did the tusk have social or spiritual significance?”
Elephant tusk discovery in Israel “of great scientific interest”
The elephant species, which would tower over their present-day descendants, arrived on Israel’s coastal plain about eight hundred thousand years ago and is believed to have died out half a million years ago.
According to the IAA, findings of elephants are rare and the fossil is “of great scientific interest.”
The IAA’s director, Eli Eskozido, noted that the find was of “primary importance for the academic community, but also of great public interest.”
IAA further noted that other fossilized remains have been discovered, revealing that humans had settled in the area and hunted the elephants that roamed the region.
The fossil said to be in very good condition is also “extremely fragile,” noted Prof. Israel Hershkovitz from the Dan David Center for Human Evolution and Biohistory at Tel Aviv University. He added that efforts were made to protect it after the initial find.
Hershkovitz further said, “Now we are excavating it within its [archeological] context, before transferring it to the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Laboratory, where it will be studied and conserved.”
The IAA commented on the significance of the joint study, noting that it intended to resolve the debates surrounding the prehistoric elephant hunters and their culture.
Eli Eskozido said that the authority plans to publicly display the tusk after conservation efforts at the IAA’s permanent exhibition hall in Jerusalem.