As crews worked on a sewage project on an Indiana family farm, they uncovered something quite unexpected — and ancient.
It was the remains of a mastodon, a giant and distant relative of modern day elephants.
Sue and Tony Nehrt, who own the family farm, received a call last week about bones found on their property in the town of Seymour, according to WAVE.
Before seeing the bones, Tony Nehrt and his brother-in-law Joe Schepman weren’t sure what to make of the discovery.
“Tony and I both thought that, well, it’s a chicken bone or a cow bone,” Schepman told WDRB, “or something like that.”
Then they saw it in person.
“Yeah, this is something very old and very large,” Schepman recalled thinking, according to WDRB.
Ron Richards, who works at the Indiana State Museum, confirmed the remains belonged to a mastodon that roamed the Earth “between 12,000 to 20,000 years ago,” as reported by WAVE. It died at about age 42, Richards estimated, according to the outlet.
The discovery “included parts of a jaw, along with a tusk, leg, teeth and skull,” as reported by The Louisville Courier Journal.
The family named the remains “Alfred,” according to WAVE.
“Both (elephants and mastodons), as well as the woolly mammoth, are members of the order Proboscidea, a name that comes from the Greek word proboskis, which means nose,” according to LiveScience.
Mastodons, which appeared in North and Central America up to 25 million years before wooly mammoth originated in Africa, could grow up to 10 feet, weigh up to 6 tons and grow tusks that reached lengths of 8 feet. They “went extinct around 10,000 years ago,” LiveScience reported.
Richards guessed the mastodon, a male, weighed around 12,000 pounds when it died, WDRB reported.
Along with being massive and ancient, the remains are fairly rare, Richards told The Seymour Tribune.
“There are only about one or two discoveries each year in Indiana,” Richards said, according to the newspaper. “It’s actually not as common in the southern part of the state. It’s also a little unique to find this many bones from the same animal in this area.”
In an interview with The Louisville Courier Journal, Sue Nehrt said finding the mastodon bones was eye-opening.
“It’s something you don’t ever think was roaming around that many years ago,” she said, according to the newspaper.
And Schepman shared that he has big plans for the bones — so everyone can enjoy them.
“Since they’ve been out of the ground, they’re starting to decay a little bit more,” he told WAVE. “I know if I tried to keep them, they’re just going to turn back, they’re going to be dust.
“Because I can see that happening and I don’t want that to happen,” he continued. ”I want some other people to say I’ve seen these bones in a museum.”
Schepman’s son told The Seymour Tribune that he agrees with his father’s plan for “Alfred.”
“It would be so cool for a kid from here to go to the museum in Indianapolis and see these bones and the tusk and know they were found in their hometown,” Brad Schepman said, according to the newspaper. “As a family, we’d like to see them go where they can be enjoyed by everyone.”