Digging up a Fossilised Elephant in your Backyard

By |2023-01-10T07:44:52+00:00July 6th, 2010|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Tennessee Homeowner Gets a “Jumbo” Surprise when Excavating Swimming Pool

Contractors excavating a new swimming pool for a resident of Brighton (Tennessee, United States), got a shock when they uncovered the fossilised jaw bones of an ancient elephant.  Volunteers have started to excavate the fossilised elephant.

Elephants may be strongly associated with Africa today, but in prehistory this particularly diverse and widespread group of mammals were present in Europe, Asia and the Americas as well as Africa.

For homeowner Jim Leydon, approximately 2.5 metres under the area due to be dug out to become a swimming pool, was the last resting place of an prehistoric animal, not the sort of thing you would expect to find in your backyard.

Recalling the discovery, Mr Leyden commented:

“My wife called and said, your’e not going to believe it… they found a dinosaur”.

The picture shows elements of the jaw with a badly worn but still very visible molar tooth to the left of the picture.  Reports on the internet have misrepresented this find as being that of a dinosaur.  This is not the first instance of large, prehistoric animal remains being misidentified by the media.

Back in 2008, we reported on the discovery of large fossilised bones being found on a bus in Peru.  At the time these too were claimed as being “from a dinosaur” but they were most probably from a prehistoric elephant – part of the fossil smuggling that takes place in some parts of the world.

To read more about this story: “Dinosaur” Bones Found on a Bus in Peru.

The jaw is definitely Proboscidea (animals with trunks) but the exact classification remains uncertain.

The animal has been tentatively described as a Trilophodon, an extinct Mastodon, a prehistoric elephant with four tusks.  No accurate date for the fossils has been determined, with estimates from two million years to as little as 30,000 years old for the remains.  The Leydon family intend to donate the fossils to the museum.

A conservator from the Memphis Pink Palace Museum was called in and carefully excavated the bones before work on the swimming pool could be resumed.  Experts at the museum have stated that Trilophodon bones have been found in Texas but this is a first for the mid-south area of Tennessee.

Prehistoric mammal fossils are not uncommon in the United States, as recently as 12,000 years ago there was an extensive and diverse array of mega fauna mammals.  However, finding the remains of a prehistoric elephant underneath your swimming pool is an exceptional discovery.

We resisted the urge to write anything about “trunks”.

Everything Dinosaur stocks a wide variety of prehistoric animal models including mammoths and other prehistoric elephants: Replicas of Prehistoric Mammals.