The intact 500,000-year-old tusk of a straight-tusked elephant was found in Israel.
The straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoxodon antiquus) is an extinct species of elephant that lived throughout Europe and Asia between 1.5 million and 100,000 years ago. This animal was up to 4 m tall and weighed up to 13 tons, twice the weight of today’s largest elephants.
Straight tusk elephants migrated out of Africa about 800,000 years ago and split into several species, with distinct species in Japan, Central Asia and Europe, and even smaller species living on some Mediterranean islands. .
The tusk was found near Kibbutz Revadim in southern Israel, very well preserved. The specimen is about 2.5m long and is at least 500,000 years old.
Dr. Lee Perry-Gal, a paleontologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said:
“The tusk belongs to a straight-toothed elephant, known from only a few locations. This species appeared in our area about 800,000 years ago, and 400,000 years ago it became extinct. It was a huge elephant, bigger than the African elephant today.
From our previous archaeological excavations at Revadim, we know that the site was settled during the Late Paleolithic period, because of stone and flint tools, as well as cave bones. Objects and remains – including elephants – have been found but only half a million years ago. “The finished ivory in such good condition is another thing.”
Professor Israel Hershkovitz, a researcher with the Dan David Center for Evolution and Biological History at Tel Aviv University, said:
“The fossil tusks are extremely fragile and likely to decompose when exposed to air, sunlight and human contact.”
This is the largest complete fossil ivory ever found at a prehistoric site in Israel or the Near East.
In a project the team unearthed a few years ago, the team found several elephant bones (skull parts, ribs, and teeth), and flint artifacts, such as scale tools, hand axes and chopping tools for meat processing.
The discovery of the tusk, separate from the skull and the rest of the body, raises the question: Was the tusk the remains of a hunted elephant, or was it collected by inhabitants local prehistoric people?
Previous ethnographic studies have shown that a large group of prehistoric humans hunted elephants in the area.
Professor Hershkovitz and IAA’s said: “The concentration of material remaining – mainly stone tools – in the present excavation and at the site as a whole reveals Dr Omry Barzilai.
“In our hot, dry climate, elephant meat doesn’t stay fresh for long, so it must have been quickly consumed by many people, possibly as part of a common event.”