Boy discovers mammoth tooth at family reunion

Jackson Hepner, 12, made an exciting find while exploring the banks of a creek on the property of The Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg, Ohio: a 10,000-year-old mammoth tooth. Innkeeper Jason Nies was hosting a family reunion at the bucolic location in Ohio’s Amish country on July 26th when his cousin’s son discovered the specimen. It was out of the water, partially buried in the mud on the left bank of Honey Run Creek.

“His dad and his uncle are both really into natural history and understanding nature,” Nies said. “They quickly jumped online and were Googling it, and that’s when we quickly found out this might be a mammoth or a mastodon tooth.” […]

“It’s just a neat find,” Nies said. “It’s not every day you get to touch and feel and see a mammoth tooth!”

Professors from Ohio State University, Ashland University and the College of Wooster verified the from pictures that it was a mammoth tooth.

Mammoth teeth are the biggest grinding teeth ever known to have existed, although the mammoths that roamed Ice Age Ohio were smaller than their Siberian counterparts and smaller than the mastodons who lived in the area at the same time. They were about the same size as modern African elephants. The newly-discovered tooth is an upper third molar and is more than seven inches long.

The Golgi apparatus-looking ridges on the plate (the top part of the tooth) would wear down over time. Replacements would grow in and the old, worn teeth shed six times over their 60-80 year lifespan. That’s why mammoth teeth are easier to find than mammoth bones, because one adult mammoth could lose a couple of dozen molars or more before it died.

Nigel Brush and Jeff Dilyard, geology professors at Ashland University, explored the creek bank after they confirmed the find was a mammoth tooth. They found no evidence of any other remains, so it’s likely the molar was a cast-off rather than a part of larger skeleton.

The tooth is at The Inn right now, but Jackson Hepner has written to Nies: “I would like to have my tooth back in my hands as soon as possible. I want to show my friends.” Damn right he does. Nies plans to give Jackson the tooth later this week, but he hopes to get it back at some point so it can go on display at The Inn. (Technically the landowners own all finds made on private property.)