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Wild & woolly: Mammoth bone fragment found in the Cape

By Staff | Aug 9, 2018

A bone fossil, measuring about one foot in length and 10 inches in width, was found during UEP construction in the Cape. Contributed photo

Utility workers stumbled upon a mammoth piece of prehistoric history last month when a long bone fragment was found during the North 2 Utility Expansion Project.

The bone, measuring just about one foot in length and 10 inches in width, is believed to be the remnants of a large extinct trunked-mammal, most likely a mastodon or woolly mammoth.

“It’s a fairly large bone fragment and is unlikely to be the only bone in the area,” said Ryan Franklin, assistant director of the Archeological and Historical Conservancy Inc., which was called to assess the fossil bone discovery.

Their field assessment states that “the bone likely came from a horizon of gray clayey sand below several more superficial horizons of fine poorly drained sands and clays.”

The bone recovered was part of the distal end of the humerus, or, the bone in the “arm” that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. This specific fossil would have connected the humerus to the elbow.

The fragment is considered to be at least 12,000 years old, predating human life in Florida, though Franklin said, “Dating is difficult.”

The report continues that finding fossils of this type are seldom found in isolation, and that there is likely a larger fossil bed in the immediate vicinity with the fossilized remains of this and other animals.

It is not uncommon to find these fossils in the Caloosahatchee River area, the assessment stated.

“There are only two recorded sites in Lee County. This is a likely result of the sites being under-reported, rather than not existing, since most fossil beds are found during deeper excavations (quarrying, deep utility, and lake excavations),” the report detailed.

State statutes involving fossils only cover lands owned or leased by the state. If the land is not state owned, no additional assessment or stoppage is required.

The AHC works in cultural resource assessments across south Florida, with their typical research being in the archeological field.

The bone fragment will be donated to the Cape Coral Historical Society.

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