Posted on 16 January 2003
Two University of York graduates have found and preserved the giant tusk of the largest elephant fossil of its type ever to be found in the Middle East.
The tusk, two-and-a-half metres long and thought to be between six and eight million years old, was discovered by Dr Mark Beech, who finished his PhD at York recently and is now senior resident archaeologist for the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (ADIAS).
Mark discovered the tusk in Abu Dhabi's Western Region last October during survey work for a construction company. When the tusk was exposed it became obvious that it was extremely fragile and that special conservation techniques would be required while it was moved. It could not be left where it was because the site is to be used for a waste disposal plant.
Mark, joined by fellow York graduate Will Higgs, who is now a research associate in the University of York's Department of Archaeology, returned to the site in December and treated the tusk with chemicals to prevent it disintegrating, before covering it with a special foam and transporting it to be stored with a collection of fossils in the city of Abu Dhabi.
Dr Beech said: "We were stunned by the discovery. Only a small part of the tusk was initially visible on the surface although we suspected it might be an important find. It is incredible that the tusk survived. Other elephant remains have been found in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi but this is much bigger. It is also the first complete tusk found in the region."
The tusk dates from a time nearly eight million years ago when the Western Region of Abu Dhabi was a forested Savannah area with slow-moving rivers.
Mr Higgs added: "I am returning to Abu Dhabi in February to aid Mark with further fossil excavation. It's incredibly exciting work."