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SHELDON, Iowa (KCAU) — A woolly mammoth tooth was found in early March on the property owned by Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC) in Sheldon.  

Justin Blauwet was the one to discover the tooth on March 4 during construction observation on a lift station project for the City of Sheldon, according to the release from DGR Engineering. The tooth was lying on the ground exposed during excavation, and it was later confirmed that it was an authentic woolly mammoth tooth.  

Justin Blauwet holding a woolly mammoth tooth he discovered on March 4, 2022, in Sheldon, Iowa, during a construction project.
Justin Blauwet holding a woolly mammoth tooth he discovered on March 4, 2022, in Sheldon, Iowa, during a construction project. Courtesy DGR Engineering

Blauwet said he always had an interest in prehistoric animals and fossils, and his sons’ interest in dinosaurs helped him to identify that it was a tooth rather than a large stone.  

Paleontology Repository Instructor at the University of Iowa Tiffany Adrain confirmed the tooth is from a woolly mammoth. It was also determined that since the project is locally funded, the City of Sheldon had no obligation to report the discovery of the tooth.  

“While discovery of mammoth remains is not uncommon in Iowa, once the bones and teeth are out in the open, they can fall apart and disappear quickly because they are not completely fossilized,” said Adrain, “This was a lucky find.”  

Adrain told DGR how to preserve the tooth since it is likely waterlogged from being underground since the last glacial maximum. The release indicated that the last glacial maximum is suspected to have been over 20,000 years ago. The preservation of the tooth must be handled carefully because drying it out too rapidly has the potential to cause disintegration.  

According to the release, the tooth weighs 11.2 pounds, measuring to about 11inches by 7 inches by 4 inches. Head Curator at East Tennessee State University Chris Widga provided more information on the tooth.

“This is an upper third molar, probably a right,” said Widga, “Based on the degree of wear, this animal was probably in its early 30s when it died.”  

Sheldon Public Works Director Todd Uhl and City Manager Sam Kooiker indicated that they believe the tooth belongs to the NCC and has suggested that they offer the tooth to the Sheldon Prairie Museum for display.  

  • A side view of a woolly mammoth tooth discovered on March 4, 2022, n Sheldon, Iowa.
  • A view of a woolly mammoth tooth discovered on March 4, 2022, n Sheldon, Iowa.
  • Justin Blauwet holding a woolly mammoth tooth he discovered on March 4, 2022, in Sheldon, Iowa, during a construction project.

“NCC already has many connections with its communities forged throughout the past half-century,” said NCC President Dr. John Hartog, “When Blauwet discovered this woolly mammoth tooth, it uncovered an even deeper connection – one that now ties our campus property way back to the prehistoric era of the retreating glaciers! Since NCC is the public college for all of its communities, we are happy to display the tooth in the Sheldon Prairie Museum as a semi-permanently loaned display. This way, everyone from across our service area can come to the museum to see and appreciate this artifact. We might display it at the College for special occasions, but we will house the artifact in the Sheldon Prairie Museum.” 

Hartog continued to say that the tooth serves as a reminder of the power of partnerships, giving acknowledgment to the DGR engineering, and the City of Sheldon for the parts they played in the discovery of the tooth.