'Operation Elephant': 500 million-year-old tusk found in southern Israel
This is the largest complete fossil tusk ever found at a prehistoric site in Israel
A complete and well-preserved half-a-million-year-old elephant tusk was discovered near Kibbutz Revadim in southern Israel, the country’s Antiquities Authority said on Tuesday.
The unique discovery was made by Dr. Eitan Mor, a biologist from Jerusalem, who visited the area after reading about prehistoric elephants.
“To my surprise, I spotted something that looked like a large animal bone peeping out of the ground. When I looked closer, I realized that it was ‘the real thing,' so I rushed to report it to the Israel Antiquities Authority,” he said.
The IAA, along with archaeologists and paleontologists from Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University, uncovered the 8-foot-long (2.5 meters) tusk after a two-week excavation called “Operation Elephant”.
The find was subjected to an initial conservation treatment before being retrieved from the ground, as fossilized tusks are extremely fragile.
“The tusk belongs to the straight-tusked elephant species, known from only a few sites. The species apparently appeared in our region about 800,000 years ago, and by 400,000 years ago it became extinct. It was a gigantic elephant, larger than the present-day African elephant,” Israel Antiquities Authority Archaeozoologist Dr. Lee Perry-Gal explained.
The researchers noted that finding a complete elephant tusk in such good condition is extremely rare.
“This is the largest complete fossil tusk ever found at a prehistoric site in Israel or the Near East,” Israel Antiquities Authority prehistorian Avi Levy, the director of the excavation, underlined.
According to the scientists, elephants inhabited this region a million and a half years ago, living alongside other large mammals, including wild cattle, hippopotami, deer, wild boars, and wild horses.