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Kid Hiker Accidentally Finds Rare Fossil Thought to Be Over a Million Years Old

A 10-year-old boy named Jude Sparks was hiking in the New Mexican desert with his family when he literally tripped on a rare and valuable find – a skull of a stegomastodon that is believed to be 1.2 million years old.

“I was running farther up and I tripped on part of the tusk,” Sparks told NMSU News Center. “My face landed next to the bottom jaw. I looked farther up and there was another tusk,” he added.

After the discovery, New Mexico State University Professor Peter Houde was immediately contacted by the Sparks family because the family saw him in a YouTube video talking about a similar fossil found a couple of years ago.

“A stegomastodon would look to any of us like an elephant. For the several types of elephants that we have in the area, this is probably one of the more common of them. but they’re still very rare. This may be only the second complete skull found in New Mexico,” explained Professor Houde.

While the jaw and two pieces of tusk were immediately taken to the NMSU Vertebrae Museum, unearthing the rest of the skull took quite some time to complete because of the needed permission to dig the property of a landowner and getting the special chemical that will preserve the fossils properly.

Professor Houde commended the Sparks family for calling experts to carry out the work of unearthing the fossils rather than getting excited and digging it themselves and advised the public to do the same if the same thing happens to them.

“As you can imagine, when people find out about these things, they might be tempted to go out there and see what they might find themselves and tear up the land or they might hurt themselves,” said Houde.

The professor also warned, “To be quite honest, all these fossils from this area are radioactive and especially for children, not something you would want in your home.”

The NMSU team will take years to study and reconstruct the skull, jaw, and tusks but the fossil would surely be on display once the process is completed.

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