An Iowa man made a remarkable discovery, the giant bone of a mammoth in the backyard of his Oskaloosa property.
The bone was unearthed in July 2010 by John and his two teenage sons when they were looking for berries on their property.
One of the boys thought it was a ball in a creek but on digging further they noticed that it was actually a massive bone.
"I could see a marrow line around the edge of this ball," John said, an amateur palaeontologist.
"And the ball was actually the head of a femur… I said 'boys, that's a bone. That's a really big bone”.
“The size of this discovery is quite uncommon. It’s pretty exciting, partially because the mammoth is being discovered where it died. And we know that because we’re finding very large bones right alongside very small bones.-- Sarah Horgen
Sought professional help
The Iowa family dug up the enormous bone and displayed it in their living room. However, they kept the discovery a secret known only to few close friends, until recently.
In the hope of finding more bones, John reached out to archaeologists and palaeontologists for further digging. Experts identified the femur to be that of a mammoth.
The excavation project has been undertaken by University of Iowa Museum of Natural History.
“The size of this discovery is quite uncommon,” said Sarah Horgen, education coordinator at the museum. “It’s pretty exciting–partially because the mammoth is being discovered where it died. And we know that because we’re finding very large bones right alongside very small bones.
Several mammoth bones discovered
Two digs have been held so far at the archeological site. The volunteers have found several mammoth bones including vertebrae, feet bones as well as its floating and thoracic ribs.
According to experts, the mammoth is at least 12,000 years old and was extinct by the end of the last ice age.
Since the bones were buried nearly ten feet underground, they are well preserved and in a good condition.
Archaeologist Marlin Ingalls of the Iowa State Archeologist's office said, "Finding the small bones is a very significant attribute in terms of the possibility of finding a nearly complete skeleton."
"There will be additional excavations out there in about two weeks in the hope that we can enlarge the excavation and recover as many of those as possible."
Once the paleontological dig is over, John gets to keep the bones as they were discovered on his property.