Prehistoric bones found in backyard to be displayed at museum

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Prehistoric bones found in a Mid-South backyard will soon be on display at a Memphis museum.

A jawbone experts believe once belonged to an ancient mastodon was uncovered last week by contractors working in Brighton. Pink Palace Conservator Roy Young, who has more than 35 years of experience digging up fossils, wasn't prepared for such a huge find.

"I have not seen this guy before in the Mid-South," Young said Tuesday. "I was quite surprised."

The unearthing of the ancient bone accidentally happened in Brighton resident Jim Leyden's backyard while contractors were digging to install a pool.

"It's a Gomphothere, which is a whole lineage of elephants or elephant-like creatures that parallels the mastodon or mammoths," Young said.

Young said the discovery of such a jawbone is quite rare.

"There's only one that I'm aware of in Texas - South Texas," he said. "Now, there are some found in Nebraska. But they're a little older - 5 million years or 13 million years old."

So how did the bones end up in Leyden's backyard? According to Young, the animal probably also lived in the area at one time.

"This is a swamp feeding kind of animal," he said. "It probably died in a place like this, and it has separated from the rest of its body. Who knows by what type of movements?"

Animals, scavengers, or floods might have all helped move the bone through the centuries, Young said.

"Hopefully we can make it pretty again. It's had a rough time."

The bone will soon go on display inside its new home at the Pink Palace.

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