Fossilized Tooth Discovered in Texas to Be Housed at Waco Mammoth National Monument

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Aunt Spray via Getty Images)

Sixty-five thousand years ago, Columbian mammoths roamed freely across North America. More than 14 feet tall and weighing over 20,000 pounds, it was among the last living species of mammoths.

To this day, scientists are still learning about these ancient mammals through the continued discovery of bones, hair, and dung. The most recent of these discoveries was made in Texas, when a local man stumbled upon a fossilized tooth on his afternoon walk.

“I’m always walking down there,” Hewitt resident Art Castillo told the Waco Tribune-Herald of the local stream from which he fished the massive tooth. Though Castillo has a passion for fishing, he also hopes to find arrowheads in the shallow water. Because of that, he’s always on the lookout for oddities.

After posting the strange tooth to social media, the Texas native was encouraged to seek out expert advice. This took him to the Waco Mammoth National Monument, who confirmed the significance of the find.

Rather than keep the artifact for himself, Art Castillo donated the mammoth tooth to the city of Waco, which runs the monument in partnership with the National Park Service. According to Castillo, the thought of selling or keeping the tooth never even crossed his mind.

To him, it’s far more important to “see others happy.” And what better way to do that than make his find available for the world to enjoy? “I don’t have any use for a rock or something like that,” he added.

Waco Mammoth National Monument Overjoyed by Fossilized Tooth

Reagan King, site manager at the Waco Mammoth National Monument, explained that the tooth isn’t just valuable for research purposes but for hands-on teaching as well. “It’s a good specimen for education purposes,” she said. “This is something kids can touch.”

“It is a nice donated tooth relevant to what we teach,” King said, adding that the tooth will likely be housed in the fossil tent in the welcome center.

Sadly, the fossilized mammoth tooth isn’t completely intact. It’s missing a portion and is a little worse for wear. But for Reagan King, that’s not important, because it’s “still something kids can learn from.”

As of now, the tooth has not gone through any restorative or cleaning processes. And the WMNM might keep it that way. It “might be important to see what a fossil looks like fresh from the ground,” King explained.

Technically, removing foliage and other items from the Cotton Belt Trail, which houses the stream in which the tooth was found, is not allowed. The only reason the city was able to accept the donation is that it was found in the water. Therefore, it could have originated somewhere else.

“There is no way to tell where it washed from,” King explained. “Or whether anything is left of the animal.”

According to the National Park Service, the Waco Mammoth National Monument “is one of the world’s most unique paleontological sites due to the discovery of the nation’s first and only recorded evidence of a nursery herd of Pleistocene Columbian mammoths.”