PSU professor finds first mammoth tooth in NH
PLYMOUTH – A Plymouth State University professor has found what has been verified as the first woolly mammoth tooth ever found in the state.
Biology professor Fred Prince said he found the tooth in the Upper Pemigewasett Valley, along the river to the north of Plymouth, in April.
He had the tooth tested and verified by Dr. Larry Agenbroad, the principal investigator at Mammoth Site, a wooly mammoth dig site in South Dakota.
Exhaustive research showed no other mammoth teeth found in the state's history, he said. However, Prince believes he found another mammoth tooth about 10 years ago in roughly the same place, but says he wasn't wise enough at the time to treasure it.
After researching mammoth teeth further, he realized that he had once held one in his hands and he wanted one again. So he began a quest to this spring.
“I told my wife, ‘I'm going to go look for a mammoth molar,'” he said. “I know it's hard to believe, but that's what happened. I went out specifically to find a mammoth tooth and I did.”
About the size of an African elephant, a male woolly mammoth's shoulder height was 9-11 feet tall and it weighed around 6 tons. The last woolly mammoths went extinct about 11,000 years ago worldwide. Their habitat was the mammoth steppe, a tundra-like area stretching from northern Eurasia to North America.
Experts say mammoth remains are rare in New England, though Prince said he wouldn't be surprised if other people have found woolly mammoth fossils, but, like him, they didn't realize what they were holding.
“You can tell it's a woolly mammoth because the black enamel thickness is only one millimeter,” said Prince. “With the Columbian mammoth, so common in the western and central US, the enamel thickness is 2 to 2.5 millimeters.”
Prince, 64, has worked at PSU since 1985. He continues to search for woolly mammoth fossils and is currently writing a research paper on his initial New Hampshire finding and his ideas on the changes in climate and vegetation across New England following the retreat of the ice at the end of the Pleistocene age.
Finding fossils is his hobby, he said.