Local man makes ancient find

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2000

While most people may only see dirt, rocks and water when they walk along creek banks, George Roberts sees history. During one such trek two months ago along Blueskin Creek near Church Hill in Jefferson County, Roberts found a mastodon tusk and eight mastodon teeth.

The giant elephant-like mammals roamed North America between the 20 million B.C. and 10,000 B.C. Adult mastodons grew to 6 to 10 feet in height at the shoulder and about 15 feet long from the tip of the tusk to the root of the tail. Fully grown mastodons weighed from 4 to 6 tons.

&uot;Half the creeks in Adams and Jefferson County have artifacts them,&uot; Roberts said.

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On that day two months ago, Roberts had the good fortune of walking along the creek after a rain, which washed away soil covering the mastodon find.

&uot;I was just walking and saw a tusk sticking out of a bank,&uot; he said.

A surveyor by trade, Roberts is also an amateur archeologist training under the Mississippi Archeological Certification Program through the Department of Archives and History. He is also a lifetime member of the Mississippi Archeological Association.

&uot;Mastodon finds are common in the Natchez area – especially along creeks,&uot; said Jim Barnett, director of the Division of Historic Properties for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Barnett said creeks wear down through the loess layer of soil, or top soil, and expose the citronelle layer, where the mastodon remains are usually found.

No other animal that roamed the Natchez area can compare in size to the mastodon, he said.

&uot;That makes it pretty easy to identify mastodon teeth — no other animal is going to have a tooth that size,&uot; Barnett said.

It seems the mastodon tusk can tell researchers a little about the animal who once wore it, Roberts said.

&uot;You can cut it in half and see rings like in a tree,&uot; he said.

&uot;But the mastodon tusk is the opposite of the tree — its rings grow from inside and are cone-shaped.&uot;

Roberts didn’t keep all of his find. He sold one tusk and three teeth online on the eBay auction Web site.

&uot;I sold the tusk to a doctor,&uot; he said. He charged only $300 for what he considers to be probably a $2,000 piece of tusk, going on the market quote of $1,000 per foot of tusk.

&uot;I wanted them to go to a good place where they could be researched,&uot; he said.

He also sold three of the eight teeth at $200 apiece to two other doctors.

Despite going back to the site of his mastodon find three or four times, Roberts hasn’t found additional remains of the mastodon.

&uot;The rest of the animal breaks down completely,&uot; he said.

Born and raised in Natchez, Roberts makes his home just outside Fayette. He said his own area of the country is full of archeological interest — he doesn’t have to travel to the Badlands in South Dakota to find exotic dinosaur bones.

&uot;I’ll never move from this place,&uot; he said. &uot;I&160;don’t have to go far away.&uot;