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February 14, 2014

AMLI Residential partners with Burke Museum to finish removing Columbian Mammoth Tusk

AMLI Residential partners with Burke Museum Paleontologists to finish removing Columbian Mammoth Tusk from South Lake Union Site
Tusk is 8.5-feet-long and largest tusk found in Seattle

UPDATE (2/14/14, 6:30 PST): The fossilized tusk has been successfully removed from the AMLI apartment site in South Lake Union and is now at the Burke Museum to begin the preservation process. The next update about the tusk will be released on Tuesday, 2/20.

SEATTLE, WASH. – February 14, 2014 – Burke Museum paleontologists worked through the night on Thursday, February 13, with AMLI Residential and Rafn Company to prepare for the removal of a fossilized mammoth tusk. The fossilized tusk was discovered on Tuesday, February 11, during excavation at AMLI’s apartment development site in the Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union.

Last night, a team of four Burke Museum paleontologists led by Dr. Christian Sidor, curator of vertebrate paleontology, worked until midnight on the site. The tusk is 8.5 feet long – the largest and most complete mammoth tusk found in Seattle to-date. Based on its age and location, Burke paleontologists believe the tusk is from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi, the Washington State Fossil). No other fossils were discovered during the excavation. Found in wet conditions, the tusk is waterlogged and will require careful long-term conservation at the Burke Museum.

AMLI halted construction allowing Burke paleontologists to prepare the tusk by carefully removing dirt from around the tusk with shovels, trowels, and brushes. They then placed layers of plaster-soaked burlap bandages on one side of the tusk. The plaster will help protect the tusk when it is moved from the site. During the drying process, which could take at least 12 months, Burke conservators will slowly remove the plaster and repair any damage to the tusk.

At 10 p.m. last night, Burke paleontologists ran out of plaster. Burke Museum Executive Director Dr. Julie K. Stein went to the Home Depot Lander, located near 1st Ave & Lander. Home Depot generously opened their doors after hours and donated 100 pounds of plaster to help complete the process.

“The AMLI Residential team’s construction crew has been extremely helpful throughout the removal process,” Dr. Christian Sidor, said. “It has been a pleasure working with them, and we greatly appreciate their enthusiasm in sharing this important prehistoric find with the Seattle community and researchers by bringing it to the Burke Museum for further analysis.”
“We are fortunate to have world-class paleontologists in our own backyard,” added Scott Koppelman, Senior Vice President of AMLI Residential “Although the excavation will cause 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.” 

Bax Barton, Vertebrate Paleontology Research Associate at the Burke Museum, also collected sediment samples from the site. This particular tusk is an important find, not only because of its completeness, but because of its stratigraphic context.  Sediment was collected every 10 centimeters, and will be part of a long-term project to help reconstruct what the environment was like during the time of the mammoth and afterward. Scientists will wash and prepare the soil to look for small organisms such as insects, snails, seeds, and pollen.
Visible at the construction site is a “marker horizon,” a blue-black layer that has a relatively well-understood age. Because the fossil is located approximately two meters below it, Burke paleontologists estimate that the tusk is at least 20,000-years-old. Carbon dating the specimen would provide a definitive age. The tusk presents a rare opportunity for paleontologists and other researchers to understand the paleoenvironmental conditions present in Seattle during the ice age.

Today, February 14, beginning at 4 p.m., AMLI will again halt construction so that the tusk can be removed from the construction site and transported to the museum for examination. The tusk will be moved onto a pallet and then a crane will then lift the pallet and tusk out of the site’s 30-foot-deep pit.

For more information on the previous activities involving the tusk, mammoths, and the prehistoric climate of Seattle, please see the press release published yesterday on the Burke Museum’s Press Room: http://www.burkemuseum.org/info/press 

High resolution images of the excavation process and the tusk are available, please contact burkepr@uw.edu or kym@michelacom.com.

Media Opportunities: 
The site is restricted to construction and Burke personnel only. Media are welcome to view the final preparation and moving of the fossil starting at 4:30 p.m. PST tonight, Friday February 14.
Burke Museum paleontologists, Burke Museum Executive Director Julie K. Stein, and Scott Koppelman from AMLI Residential will be available for comment at 4:30 p.m. No interviews or additional information will be provided until this evening. Cameras are welcome. For questions regarding logistics for the press conference, please contact one of the two media contacts listed above.


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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, which will contain over 1,000 apartment homes when construction is complete on their two newest developments. More information is available at http://www.amli.com

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About the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture:
The Burke Museum is the Washington State Museum of natural history and culture. The Burke Museum creates a better understanding of the world and our place in it. The museum is responsible for Washington State collections of natural and cultural heritage and sharing the knowledge that makes them meaningful. The Burke welcomes a broad and diverse audience and provides a community gathering place that nurtures life-long learning and encourages respect, responsibility, and reflection. The 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.


About the Tusk and Mammoths:
Based on its anatomy and previous discoveries in the area, the museum believes the fossil is likely a tusk from a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi), which was designated the Washington State Fossil in 1998. It is 8.5-feet-long and is the most intact and largest tusk found in Seattle.

The Burke Museum is the Washington State Museum for natural history and culture. Paleontology collections at the Burke Museum include 25 mammoth fossils from King County, most of which are skeletal fragments and were found within Seattle.

The discovery of a mammoth tusk in South Lake Union is a rare opportunity to directly study Seattle’s ancient natural history. Contemporary Ice Age mammals include giant ground sloths (Megalonyx jeffersoni) like the one found at SeaTac airport and currently on display at the Burke Museum, and extinct bison (Bison antiquus), among others. Conditions were much colder and drier than today, and the region was probably covered with grassland and occasional pine trees, akin to the northern edges of modern boreal forests.

This particular tusk is an important find, not only because of its completeness, but because of its stratigraphic context. Visible at the construction site is a “marker horizon,” a blue-black layer that has a relatively well-understood age. Because the fossil is located approximately two meters below it, Burke paleontologists estimate that the tusk is at least 20,000 years old. Carbon dating the specimen would provide a definitive age. The tusk presents a rare opportunity for paleontologists and other researchers to understand the paleoenvironmental conditions present in Seattle during the ice age.

Mastodons and mammoths are ancient elephant relatives that once inhabited the ice-free lands of North America. They lived here at the same time, but ate different plant foods and so did not compete with each other. Both became extinct as the glaciers receded at the end of the Ice Ages, between 10,000 and 11,000 years ago.
Mammoths, which were larger than mastodons and much more closely related to elephants, arrived in North America from Asia about 2 million years ago. Columbian Mammoths grew to 12 feet at the shoulder, taller than woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) and about the size of the modern Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Their very long tusks curved down from the face, then upward at the ends. Columbian mammoths were herbivores, with a diet that included grasses and conifers. They chewed grass with large, flat, washboard-like teeth that are very similar to the teeth of modern elephants.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274
burkepr@uw.edu

Burke Museum Paleontology Lab Manager Bruce Crowley uses an awl to carefully remove sediment from around the tusk. When fully exposed, the tusk measured 8.5 feet long.
Photo by Christian Sidor, courtesy Burke Museum.