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Mastodon bones unearthed during Indiana construction project

Workers installing a new sewer line in southern Indiana came across the discovery of a lifetime recently when they unearthed prehistoric mammal bones thought to be more than 10,000 years old.

The Seymour Tribune reported Wednesday that workers with Atlas Excavating had discovered the bones believed to be belonging to a mastodon, the prehistoric ancestors of modern-day elephants, while installing sewer pipes on a farm.

Among the fossils discovered include the majority of one of the animal's tusks, as well as skull fragments, vertebrae, and leg bones, according to the Tribune.

"The weight of them is unbelievable," Joe Schepman, who owns the property in Seymour, Ind., where the bones were discovered, told the newspaper. "When the tusks were on the animal, they were about 9 feet long if you can imagine that."

Ron Richards, an expert with the Indiana State Museum who examined the fossilized bones, told the Tribune that the animal stood as tall as 9 and a half feet.

"There are only about one or two discoveries each year in Indiana," he said, according to the Tribune. "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."

Richards added that he has never seen a mastodon skeleton recovered in Jackson County, where Seymour is located, in the nearly four decades he has worked for the museum.

"I think people are interested because these are big things from a forgotten time," he told the newspaper. "People find them interesting because they were real, they were here and they're every bit as much a Hoosier as I am."

The fossils were taken by the museum, according to Richards, who says that the exact age of the bones will be determined by radiocarbon dating.