Couple donate 12,000 year old mammoth tooth to museum
PUBLISHED: 10:27 09 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 23 April 2019
A 'mammoth' piece of prehistoric history, which has sat in a lunch box for more than a decade, has gone on display at Sidmouth Museum.
Pamela and Michael Gordon-Lee discovered a tooth, measuring 2.5kilos, during a crisp December walk along Ebb Hook, at the eastern end of Salcombe Regis, back in 2009, and immediately knew they had discovered something special.
The couple have kept the tooth in an airtight lunch box and silica gel for a decade, bringing it out to show guests, but felt it was time it was seen by more people.
The tooth which belongs to a mammuthus trogouitheri is believed to be the first discovery outside of the species outside of the London basin.
The creature would have roamed across the frozen ground around Sidmouth and out on plains that are now below the sea.
Presenting the tooth on Monday, Mrs Gordon-Lee said: “I quite literally stumbled across this whilst beachcombing at low tide at Salcombe Regis in December 2009. “At the eastern end of the beach the rocks are exposed at low tide and my husband and I were just pottering about hoping maybe to find some fossils. I immediately saw it was something significant although I didn't know exactly what it was so with some effort as it weighs over 2.5kilos I carried it all the way back up the steps and back home, not really knowing what to do with it.
“It should be seen by a much wider audience, it's a nice thing to have and exciting, I cannot imagine the size of a mammoth, it's so huge that it is incredible. “Even back then mammoths were coming to Sidmouth.
“I'm delighted to donate it to the museum, I really did feel it does need to be on display.”
Members from Lyme Regis Museum helped to identify the tooth, with experts from the Natural History Museum confirming the species and dating it as between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.
Mammoth teeth have been discovered over the centuries around Sidmouth, including from the woolly variety. The new addition will go alongside a small tooth discovered 150 years ago in 1869 and acquired by Sidmouth historian Peter Orlando Hutchinson.
Colin Boynton, assistant geologist curator at Sidmouth Museum, said: “It was most likely washed out of the cliff or washed down the river.
“It is practically a fossil, if it had stayed in subsoil it would have been frozen into a rock after a few million years.
“It's from the Ice Age roughly 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. The Ice Age shaped the land form around Sidmouth. During the Ice Age sea levels were much lower, the English Channel didn't exist. The mammoth could cross from Africa to Europe.
“This is really significant to us. It will spark interest a bit we have this in our collection alongside the collection to Peter Orlando Hutchinson.”