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In July, workers at the Christian charity In the Image, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., were surprised to find a giant toothlike object and what appeared to be a piece of tusk in a box of donations, local TV station Fox 17 reported.
The man who stumbled upon the fossils, John Timmer, said he first thought the loaf-sized tooth was pottery, the station reported. But upon closer inspection, he decided it “looked to be a giant molar.” A curator from the Grand Rapids Public Museum eventually identified it as a mastodon tooth, and the tusk as also probably belonging to one of the giant mammals.
The fossils were estimated to be 12,000 to 15,000 years old, National Geographic reported. Mastodons, which were similar to wooly mammoths, went extinct about 11,000 years ago, the outlet noted. (The mastodon is also Michigan’s official fossil.)
The museum, which already has several mastodon fossils in its collection, has since offered to let the items become part of its exhibit.
The charity is also still trying to determine where the artifacts came from and how they ended up among the donated clothing.
“I’d love to find out where this was from and the history behind it,” Starkey told The Grand Rapids Press.