N.H. scallopers make a mammoth discovery; may have pulled up prehistoric tooth from depths

A 6-inch tooth? Two New Hampshire scallopers think this may have been part of a woolly mammoth’s smile.
A 6-inch tooth? Two New Hampshire scallopers think this may have been part of a woolly mammoth’s smile.Mike and Padi Anderson

As Mike and Padi Anderson sold their catch of scallops on the dock Wednesday night in Rye Harbor, N.H., it wasn’t just their shellfish that drew people’s interest. It was an object that looks like a 6-inch-long tooth that Mike had dredged up from the ocean earlier that day.

Mike said he casually throws away lots of useless rocks, wood shards, and other debris that come up in his nets, but as he sifted through his catch Wednesday afternoon, the strange item caught his eye. A crew member e-mailed a picture of the object to a geologist from the University of New Hampshire, and a short while later the verdict came back: The tooth almost certainly belonged to a woolly mammoth.

“It’s just a wild feeling to hold something that was living 10,000 years ago in your hand,” Padi said.

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The tooth weighs about 5 pounds and still has remnants of the root that connected it to the mammoth’s gums, Mike said in a phone interview from the deck of his boat, the F/V Rimrack.

“It’s about twice the size of my fist and it looks like he missed brushing his teeth a couple times,” he said.

The Andersons will have to wait until William Clyde, the geologist, returns from a trip to South America before they can confirm that the tooth once belonged to a mammoth, but for them, the preliminary ruling is enough.

The two Rye natives said they plan to bring the tooth with them again tonight to the Rye Harbor State Marina pier where they sell their seafood because it draws attention to their business, but they may loan it to a museum someday.

Mike said he would be out on the water again today, even though it’s choppy.

“He’s out fishing again today, out looking for scallops,” Padi said. “But secretly, I know he’s out there looking for the tusk to go with the tooth.”