It had waited almost 20,000 years to see the light of day.
Three years later, the prehistoric tusk fragment unearthed at a construction site in Ridgefield is still waiting to make its public debut. But the remarkable find could make a return trip to Clark County soon.
“It’s probably just about ready,” said Roger Kiers, an archaeologist with the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The ancient tusk, which belonged to either a mammoth or a mastodon, has undergone preservation treatment since it was discovered by a WSDOT inspector at a construction site in Ridgefield in January 2010. It spent much of that time soaking in an acrylic sealant while stored in Kiers’ garage in Olympia. The idea was to give the tusk enough stability so it doesn’t continue to degrade once it reaches its eventual home.
“We’re just waiting for the acrylic to soak in and harden so that it doesn’t keep decomposing,” said Scott Williams, manager of WSDOT’s cultural resources program.
That treatment is now largely complete. Transportation officials haven’t decided what will happen to the tusk next. Kiers said he’d like to see it displayed in Clark County, perhaps at WSDOT’s regional headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., or at a local museum. The University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle could be another candidate, he said.
The tusk was found in pieces about 30 feet underground. Crews were drilling a shaft for what would become a new interchange at Interstate 5 and state Route 501.
Shortly after it was found, the tusk was whisked away for research and analysis. The find was dated to about 19,000 years old, Kiers said, but it’s unclear whether it was a mammoth or a mastodon.
Kiers credited WSDOT crews for recovering what they did, but the tusk was crunched by large equipment that wasn’t so gentle.
“The construction work did a pretty good job of damaging it in the first place,” Kiers said. “It was pretty well busted up.”