April 15, 2014

For high-resolution photos, interviews, and more information please contact:

Burke Museum Public Relations

South Lake Union mammoth tusk donated to the Burke Museum

Mammoth’s name selected and additional public viewing opportunities

Burke PR

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 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.


For high-resolution photos, interviews, and more information please contact:

Burke Museum Public Relations

Back to Top