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Fossil-Treasures-of-Florida-Newsletter, Issue #0007 -- How to Identify Fossil Ivory
June 29, 2010

Fossil Newsletter, Issue #0007 - How to Identify Fossil Ivory

June 29, 2010

In this Issue:

* Two New Large Mammals from the Ice Age of Florida.
* How to Identify Fossil Ivory.
* What's New at

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Hello all, Have added a number of fossils up for sale for the first time. Please take a look around the site. New Stuff.

Two New Large Mammals from the Ice Age of Florida

Two new large mammals discovered in Florida. One is a Giant Short-Faced Bear and the other a Peccary. Click here to read about large prehistoric mammals discovered in Florida.

How to Identify Fossil Ivory

One of the questions I often get asked is “How can you tell the difference between fossil bone and fossil ivory”. From the outside and at first glance they most often look very similar, particularly from dark river deposits. The key difference for identifying fossil ivory is the “cross-hatch” pattern at the end or cross section of the specimen. Ivory, as you may know, comes from the tusks of both extinct and modern elephants.

Here is a picture of a Juvenile Mastodon lower tusk cross section. Look at the end of this piece and notice the cross-hatch pattern. That is the clear tail sign of fossil ivory.

The Schreger Pattern is the name for this cross-hatch pattern in the ivory, which forms alternating light and dark spiraling bands. Each species of Proboscideans can be determined by the angle of this pattern. Mastodons and Mammoths can be predicted about 95% of the time, by the differences in this pattern.

Fossil Ivory or Prehistoric Ivory in Florida, either Mastodon or Mammoth is highly mineralized and usually brittle, thus it is unusable for carving, etc. However, Mammoth Ivory from Alaska, Canada, and Siberia that has been frozen in the permafrost is very carvable and very similar in properties to modern elephant ivory.

U.S. Customs Agents use the Schreger Pattern to determine if imported ivory is legal. Unless accompanied with permits or proper documentation, modern elephant ivory is not legal to import. However, Mastodon and Mammoth Ivory is legal to posses and import. So how can they tell the difference?

Apparently, if the angle of the cross-hatch pattern is less than 90 degrees, the ivory is fossil mammoth (mammoth forms angles of 87 degrees on average). If the cross-hatch angle is more than 90 degrees, the ivory could be modern elephant (modern elephant ivory forms angles greater than 115 degrees.) On the other hand, Mastodons cross-hatch angle is 125 degrees on average.

It’s a good skill to know how to identify fossil ivory from fossil bones. Even a better skill if you can look at tusk ivory and tell what type of Proboscidean or elephant it came from.

What's New at

*Take a look at these newly added or updated pages!
Fossils for Sale 1
Fossils for Sale 2
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