Mammoth discovery: Six-foot tusk found on Essex beach

Bethany Minelle, News Reporter
The woolly mammoth tusk is taller than the average man at 6ft in length. Pic. @CITiZAN1

Archaeologists on an early morning walk along the Essex coast have found a six-foot-long mammoth tusk buried in the sand.

Volunteers and members of the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (Citizan) made the unexpected find on Thursday morning off Mersea Island in Essex.

The group were out on the day of the equinox spring tide - the lowest tide of the year - when one of the members spotted the tip of the tusk poking through the shingle.

Citizan - which trains volunteers to recognise surface archaeology in the area - had chosen the beach after a Bronze Age trackway was discovered in the same area last month.

Oliver Hutchinson, 33, an archaeologist for the group, told Sky News the discovery was "a chance find".

When the archaeologists dug down around the tip, they discovered the 6ft (1.8m) tusk hidden in the beach, around 1,000m from the shore.

Using a phone app, the team logged its location but had to move on with their field trip before the tide came in.

Volunteers returned on Friday morning, taking around 60 photos to create a 3D image using photogrammetry - the science of making measurements from photos.

Mr Hutchinson said: "The good thing about being able to make a 3D model of the tusk, is that using this technology we can capture and share our find with other experts."

They also took small samples of the tusk itself, and from the ground around and below it, in order to date the find, which could be 14,000 years old.

"We can't actually pick up the tusk as it's laminated and flaking apart," said Mr Hutchinson.

"It has to stay in situ and slowly erode away. It's just the nature of it - many things have gone the way of the dodo."

Most mammoths died out 10,000 years ago, with a tiny population enduring on isolated Wrangel Island - off the northern coast of eastern Siberia - until 1650 BC.

While it is widely believed they were driven to extinction by humans, scientists have also found evidence that rising temperatures may have melted the mammoths' habitat, causing them to die out.

US scientists recently said they were just two years away from creating a hybrid woolly mammoth embryo using DNA from specimens found frozen in ice.