Ohio Boy Finds Rare Ice Age Woolly Mammoth Tooth in Amish Country

A 12-year-old boy discovered an ancient woolly mammoth tooth in the grounds of a hotel in Ohio's Amish Country, according to reports.

Jackson Hepner—a relative of the hotel manager at The Inn at Honey Run in Millersburg, Ohio—spotted the tooth in July while enjoying the summer weather with his family, who were there for a reunion, Fox 8 reported.

As the family were taking some pictures of each other near Honey Run Creek, Hepner noticed a strange-looking object by the edge of the water. When he retrieved it from the mud, he realized it was some sort of tooth.

"I found the tooth about ten yards upstream from the bridge we had our family pictures on," Hepner wrote on the hotel's blog. "It was partially buried on the left side of the creek. It was completely out of the water on the creek bed."

The family then showed the tooth to experts Nick Kardulias from the College of Wooster's Program of Archaeology, Dale Gnidovec from The Ohio State University's Orton Geological Museum and Nigel Ashland from Ashland University's Geology Department.

Between them, the experts identified the tooth as that of a woolly mammoth, in part due to its distinctive parallel ridges, which the animals used to ground down their food, including grass and seeds. Specifically, the tooth was determined to be an upper third molar.

"We're thrilled to be the site of a unique and special find that proves there could be some hidden treasures among the rolling hills of Ohio's Amish Country still waiting to be uncovered," the hotel team wrote in the blog.

Now that the experts have had a look at the tooth, Hepner is seemingly eager to have his find returned to him.

"I would like to have my tooth back in my hands as soon as possible," he wrote in the blog. "I want to show my friends."

Woolly mammoths roamed what is now Ohio during the last Ice Age, which spanned the years between around 110,000 and 12,000 years ago (although it should be noted that the very last population of the animals on Earth, which lived in Siberia, survived until roughly 4,000 years ago.)

"During the Ice Age there were two kinds of 'elephants' living in Ohio—mammoths and mastodons," Gnidovec told Newsweek. "Their remains have been found at about 230 places around the state, usually only a bone here or a tooth there. Mastodons are much more common—there have been at least half a dozen nearly complete skeletons found here—mammoths much more rare. That is because Ice Age Ohio had much more forested areas, which the mastodons lived in, that it did open grasslands preferred by the mammoths."

"Mammoths entered North America from Asia around two million years ago but the ones in Ohio are much later, generally in the neighborhood of 13,000 years old, about the time they became extinct," he said. "Multiple glacial advances over our state destroyed earlier evidence."

Gnidovec argues that the most likely reason for their extinction was man, either directly by overhunting or human-caused environmental disturbance. They had survived multiple advances and retreats of the ice before man's arrival.

"The landscape and wildlife that visitors at the Inn experience now is definitely changed from the time of the great Ice Age," the Inn team wrote in the blog. "What is now lush greenery, flowing waters, and hundreds of beautiful species was once an enormous glacial sheet that would slowly (and literally) shape Ohio's future.
The unearthing of the Mammoth tooth shows that there are definite pieces of ancient history hidden around us, connecting us to an interesting past."

This article was updated to include additional comments from Dale Gnidovec.

woolly mammoths
The early Ice Age, when mammoths roamed the Earth and Man was arising, 1907. From Harmsworth History of the World, Volume 1, by Arthur Mee, J.A. Hammerton, & A.D. Innes, M.A. (Carmelite House, London, 1907) Photo by The Print Collector/Getty Images