When an Iowa family first stumbled across the strange object in their backyard, it looked like an old bowling ball. But imagine the surprise when the "ball" turned out to be part of a massive mammoth bone.
The bone was discovered two years ago, and now the family's quiet home in Oskaloosa has turned into a bustling excavation site, where the bones are kept in the living room, according to ABC-affiliate ABC5-WOI in Des Moines. The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History reportedly has stepped in to oversee the research.
“The size of this discovery is quite uncommon,” Sarah Horgen, the museum's education coordinator, told ABC News. “It’s pretty exciting-–partially because the mammoth is being discovered where it died. And we know that because we’re finding very large bones right alongside very small bones.”
The mammoth bones, reported to be at least 12,000 years old, were found about 10 feet underground. "The conditions of the bones were ideal," archaeologist Marlin Ingalls of the Iowa State Archeologist's office told The Huffington Post.
A farmer identified only as John said in an ABC5-WOI video that he encountered a 4-foot-long mammoth femur bone in 2010 when walking with his two sons behind their home. Ingalls said the bone was found vertically in the bottom of a creek, and at first, one of the sons thought it was a bowling ball.
"The ball was actually the head of a femur. I said, 'boys that's a bone,'" John, who said he has a personal interest in archeology, told ABC. "That's a really big bone."
John recently brought the fossil to the University of Iowa, and now researchers have joined the backyard dig, finding the mammoth’s feet and toe bones, and its floating and thoracic ribs. Ingalls, who recently participated in a dig, said that some of the ribs were found side by side.
"Finding the small bones is a very significant attribute in terms of the possibility of finding a nearly complete skeleton," Ingalls told The Huffington Post. "There will be additional excavations out there in about two weeks in the hope that we can enlarge the excavation and recover as many of those as possible."