Ten years later, Dr. Frederick P. Prince realized he had made a terrible mistake.
Prince, an anatomy professor at Plymouth State University, was opening a package last winter containing a woolly mammoth molar and partial molar that he had purchased for ice age research when it dawned on him: He had thrown away a similar tooth a decade ago.
The AP reports that when Prince realized the “black laminated-looking plate” he had tossed aside in a stream in Campton was likely New Hampshire’s first woolly mammoth tooth, he vowed to find another.
So he did.
Once the snow thawed in April 2015, Prince scoured the area surrounding the stream for a few hours before locating another tooth 2 miles from where he estimates he found the first one.
The prehistoric elephant tooth was sitting in a gravel pit weighing about 1 pound.
Prince sent photos to Larry Agenbroad, director of The Mammoth Site in South Dakota, who confirmed — in an email ending with three exclamation points— that it was a partial molar.
Prince said he wouldn’t be surprised if others have made similar discoveries, but, like him, didn’t know what they were looking at.
“I just about fell on the floor because that is what I had 10 years ago,” he said. “That made me sick because I knew what I had done.”
Woolly mammoths entered North America via the Bering Strait about 1.8 million years ago, and are thought to have died out about 10,000 years ago. Their disappearance is thought to be a result of climate change, disease, and hunting by humans. But no one knows for sure.