Marty McEwen was digging in the dirt on his dad's North Texas property in May when the excavator suddenly hit something. That something turned out to be a six-foot tusk -- of a mammoth that had walked the earth tens of thousands of years ago.
Then, as if finding a mammoth tusk on one's property wasn't spectacular enough, McEwen and his dad, Wayne, soon discovered that it wasn't just the tusk that was buried on their family's land but the animal's nearly complete skeleton -- in pristine condition, no less.
The skeleton is believed to belong to a female Colombian mammoth that stood approximately 8 to 9 feet tall at the shoulder. It's estimated to be 20,000 to 60,000 years old.
Experts called the skeleton -- which is reportedly 90 percent complete -- an "outstanding find."
"We get a lot of mammoth fossils in Texas but it's usually a tooth here, a tusk there or a piece of jaw," Ron Tykoski, a paleontologist with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, told Reuters. "This is unusual. It looks like it just laid down and died."
Though the McEwens could have kept or sold the fossilized remains, they reportedly decided to donate it to the museum.
"It needed to stay in North Texas where the local communities can enjoy it for a long time to come,” Wayne McEwen said in a written statement released by the museum.
Tykoski praised the family's decision, calling the donation a "huge contribution" to science.
"This fossil is now part of the public trust, meaning scientists can describe it, study it, publish papers on it and display it from this time on,” Tykoski said in the statement. “Without their gift, this magnificent creature might have gone onto the auction block, never to be seen again. It would have been a huge loss for science and for the people of North Central Texas.”
The museum says it expects to have the mammoth skeleton in-house by September.