Believe it? Tooth of mastodon found in Demopolis

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Next time you take a shovel to the yard, dig lightly. You might hit the jaw of a creature that walked through Demopolis some 2,000 years ago.

Don’t believe it? The same group working to upgrade natural gas lines around Demopolis shoveled more than limestone from the ground on April 28. They shoveled out the near 7-inch tooth of a mastodon.

According to a letter from Mixon Russ, division manager for Alagasco in Selma, contractors uncovered “a very large buried tooth on Carver Avenue that appeared to be very old.”

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Old is an understatement. According to, mastodons roamed North America thousands of years ago. Some believe the creatures survived until the time of Christ, and according to Russ’ letter to Demopolis Mayor Austin Caldwell, there have been only a few mastodon fossils found around the state.

“… This tooth might provide valuable information on this species and the history of our state,” Russ said in his letter.

Tuesday, Russ could not be reached for comment. However, an official with Alagasco said the tooth was discovered by a crew of workers near Foscue Park. According to the official, the tooth was taken from the ground, pictures were taken, and the Museum of Natural History at the University of Alabama eventually took the tooth to be preserved.

After the UofA museum was notified, a crew came to Demopolis to survey the area, hoping to find other rare fossils. After finding nothing, contractors were allowed to continue their work upgrading the natural gas distribution system in the city.

Caldwell said he had heard nothing, except for the letter from Russ.

“I’ve sent a letter asking for a picture,” Caldwell said.

According to the encyclopedia, mastodon remains have been found in places that were associated with fires. Some believe humans roasted the meet of the animals, which are most similar to a modern-day elephant.

Another Web site said some mastodons developed scoop-shaped lower tusks that were used for digging vegetation. They had reddish-brown hair and were often found near bodies of water.