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Construction crew finds mammoth tusk in Pratt

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt Tribune
Randy Thimesch measures pieces of a mammoth tusk unearthed Monday in Pratt at a construction site for a new truck oil change and tire repair business.

News spread quickly Monday in Pratt of an archeological find at a construction site behind Casey's General Store just north of the U.S. Highway 54/400 and K-61 junction. Randy Thimesch and his Thimesch Construction crew unearthed what turned out to be sections of a mammoth tusk around 10 a.m. while they were trenching in sewer lines for a new truck-oil change and tire repair station owned by Dale Withers, of Pratt.

"As soon as we hit it I knew it could be a mammoth tusk," Thimesch said. "I saw the one that was unearthed in Cunningham a few years ago and recognized this as a very similar piece."

Sewer-line work was halted in the 6-ft. deep trench and crew members shifted their focus to gently digging around the area where the large 20-inch section of tusk was first found. Several other smaller sections of tusk were unearthed, along with fragments that could be from tusk or possibly mammoth bone substance.

"I called Alan Albers out to see as he is kind our local expert on this kind of thing," Thimesch said. "He was on the crew that found the tusk in Cunningham and has a very good interest, as well as experience in identifying these relics."

On the dig site, Albers said there were a lot of similarities to the Pratt find and the Cunningham-found tusk.

"This looks like river sand down here," Albers said. "You can see the different layers of sand and the colors in the trench. There was a river here at one time, could have been 30-40,000 years ago."

Albers already owns part of a mammoth tusk and said he purchased a mastodon jawbone at Hamm Auction. He said he has had those items evaluated and they were confirmed to be 7-10 million years old.

Albers, assisted by the Thimesch Construction crew that included Damien Goertz, Caleb Swaney, Lucas Streight and Patrick Thimesch, continued digging in the sandy soil by hand and with small shovels throughout the day to see if they could find more fossils but did not strike any other large bones or tusks.

"We called the owner Dale Withers to see what he wanted to do, and he said dig it all up," Albers said. "He was very interested to see what we could find."

After visiting the site, Withers said he plans to keep the mammoth tusk parts, including all the small pieces that went with several larger sections, and would send all in to get it professionally preserved and mounted.

"We will put it in a special case for the front counter of this shop when we get it opened," he said. "It's pretty awesome to have found something like this in Pratt."

As the artifact was found on private property, the owner (Withers) may legally decide what to do with the item.

The mammoth tusk found at Cunningham in August 2016 was cleaned and preserved at Wichita State University, then placed on display at the Cunningham Historical Museum in Kingman County.