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April 15, 2014

South Lake Union Mammoth Tusk Donated to the Burke Museum

Mammoth’s Name Selected and Additional Public Viewing Opportunities
Burke Museum in partnership with AMLI South Lake Union and KING 5

Seattle – It’s been 63 days since the mammoth tusk was found at an AMLI South Lake Union construction site. In that short period of time, the mammoth now has a name, thousands of people have had a chance to see the tusk, and it now has a permanent home at the Burke Museum.

Mammoth’s Name Announced
The Burke Museum partnered with AMLI South Lake Union and KING 5 on a naming contest for the Seattle mammoth. More than 1,000 names were submitted during the month-long contest. A panel of four judges selected the name “LuLu, the Lucky South Lake Union Mammoth” – or “LuLu” for short. The name is a combination of two entries: “Lucky,” which was submitted by 8-year-old Seattle resident Zoe F., and “LU,” submitted by Claudia G., also from Seattle.

Claudia chose “LU” for Lake Union, located near the site where the tusk was discovered. Zoe chose “Lucky” because the tusk was a lucky find after more than 20,000 years buried in the ground.

In addition to the satisfaction of helping the mammoth rediscover its name, the winners received a membership to the Burke Museum, a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Burke’s paleontology collections, and a personalized gift bag.

The mammoth naming contest judges were: Dr. Christian Sidor, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Burke Museum; Lori Matsukawa, KING 5 News; Twitter Personality SLU_Mammoth; and Matt Elly, AMLI Residential.

AMLI Residential Donates Mammoth Tusk to the Burke Museum, Supports Research
In addition to the name, the mammoth’s tusk now has an official home in the Burke Museum’s paleontology collection. AMLI generously donated the tusk to the Burke, where it will be cared for and made accessible for researchers and the public alike to learn from.

In addition to donating the tusk, AMLI is also sponsoring research for the fossil.

“We are fortunate to have world-class paleontologists in our own backyard,” added Scott Koppelman, Senior Vice President of AMLI Residential. “Although the excavation caused us some construction delay, the scientific and educational benefits of this discovery clearly outweigh the costs. AMLI is pleased to be working with the Burke Museum.” 

What’s Next for the Tusk? Preservation, Research Possibilities, and Public Viewing Opportunities
Found in moist, sandy sediments just a couple of blocks from Lake Union, LuLu’s tusk is waterlogged and very fragile. It can scratch easily, like a scratching a crayon with your fingernail. In order to protect the fossil—the most complete and largest mammoth tusk ever found in Seattle—the tusk will need to slowly dry out—a process that will take at least a year. During that time, it will stay fully covered in a plaster cast, which will help the tusk keep its shape and slow the drying process. As the tusk stabilizes, Burke conservators will slowly remove the plaster and repair any damage to the tusk with a dilute glue designed for fossil preservation.

Although still wrapped in plaster, the tusk is already revealing its story. This particular tusk is an important find, not only because of its completeness, but because Burke paleontologists were able to collect the fossil along with detailed data from the sediment surrounding it. Many fossils in natural history museums lack this crucial information. Soil was collected every 10 centimeters from 21 horizons—snapshots over geologic time—so scientists can begin to reconstruct what the environment was like over time since the mammoth was buried. While excavating the tusk, Burke paleontologists observed fossilized beetle and plant parts in the overlying stream bed sediments. Scientists will wash and prepare the sediment samples taken at the site to look for more small organisms such as insects, snails, seeds, and especially pollen, which can provide information about ancient floras. Sediment analysis can begin at any time, even as the tusk is drying.

The tusk itself has the potential to contribute to several scientific areas, among them: carbon dating to confirm the age of the fossil, stable isotope geochemical analysis to identify the types of plants the mammoth ate, and potentially DNA analysis to determine the genetics and sex of the mammoth. Much of this research is contingent on the quality of the tusk once it has completely dried, when viable samples are able to be collected for testing.

The Burke Museum’s paleontology collection is essentially a library of fossils that help tell the story of life on earth. Researchers from around the world can study the fossils at any time, and the tusk is an important addition.

Visitors can see the tusk (fully covered in its plaster jacket), in the Burke’s newest exhibit, Imagine That: Surprising Stories and Amazing Objects from the Burke Museum, on view through October 26, 2014. In addition to viewing the tusk, visitors can track the preservation process by checking moisture readings as the tusk dries out over the months to come in the exhibit, and talk to Burke staff about the latest updates.

Updates regarding the research and preservation of the tusk will also be made available on seattlemammoth.org. Burke paleontologists will continue to carefully monitor the tusk to ensure that it is drying properly and not getting damaged while in the Imagine That exhibit. Visitors should go to the Burke Museum’s website (burkemuseum.org) before visiting to see if there are any changes to the display of the tusk.

For high resolution photos and interviews, contact burkepr@uw.edu.


About LuLu’s Tusk: On Tuesday, February 12, 2014, construction workers at an AMLI Residential apartment construction site in the Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union were digging with a backhoe and felt something unusual—what appeared to be a fossilized mammoth tusk. Burke Museum paleontologists were called to examine and confirmed the find. Burke paleontologists worked with AMLI South Lake Union and RAFN Construction crews on February 13 and 14 to carefully remove and transport the tusk to the Burke Museum. At 8.5-feet-long, the tusk is the most complete and largest mammoth tusk found in Seattle to-date.

Based on its age and location, Burke paleontologists believe the tusk belonged to a Columbian Mammoth—the Washington State fossil. Currently sitting in a protective cast made of plaster bandages and aluminum foil, carefully reinforced with 2’x4’ wooden planks, the tusk is starting a long preservation process because it was found in wet soil and needs to slowly dry out.

About the Burke Museum: The Burke Museum is located on the University of Washington campus, at the corner of NE 45th St. and 17th Ave. NE. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily, and until 8 pm on first Thursdays. Admission: $10 general, $8 senior, $7.50 student/ youth. Admission is free to children four and under, Burke members, UW students, faculty, and staff. Admission is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month. Prorated parking fees are $15 and partially refundable upon exit if paid in cash. Call 206-543-5590 or visit http://www.burkemuseum.org The B.urke Museum is an American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate.

To request disability accommodation, contact the Disability Services Office at: 206.543.6450 (voice), 206.543.6452 (TTY), 206.685.7264 (fax), or email at dso@u.washington.edu. The University of Washington makes every effort to honor disability accommodation requests. Requests can be responded to most effectively if received as far in advance of the event as possible, preferably at least 10 days.

About AMLI Residential: AMLI Residential, a preeminent multifamily real estate firm headquartered in Chicago, focuses on the development, construction and management of luxury apartment communities throughout the country. Founded in 1980, AMLI is wholly-owned by Prime Property Fund, a core, co-mingled real estate fund. AMLI currently owns and/or manages 54 apartment communities, including over 18,500 apartment homes, and has over 4,000 additional apartment homes under development in 14 locations. AMLI owns and manages four apartment communities in the Seattle area including two new developments set to be completed in 2014, one being AMLI South Lake Union where the tusk was discovered. More information is available at http://www.amli.com

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274

The tusk where it was discovered at an AMLI South Lake Union apartment site in the Cascade Neighborhood of Seattle’s South Lake Union. Wrapped in aluminum foil, burlap and four layers of plaster, the tusk is currently waterlogged and fully enclosed in this jacket and being carefully monitored
Photo by Cathy Britt, courtesy Burke Museum and AMLI South Lake Union.