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VCU Archaeology

Mastodon Tooth from Franklin Court

by Bernard K. Means

Last August, I was in the archaeology laboratory of Independence National Historical Park to 3D scan artifacts for an upcoming exhibit on the archaeology of the National Constitution Center (scheduled to open next week!). While there, I talked about my recently completed 3D scanning trip to the Western Science Center in Hemet, California-a trip sponsored by the Smithsonian Affiliates program. For that trip to California, I 3D scanned a number of mammoth and mastodon remains. As I spoke with Jed Levin, Chief of the History Branch Independence National Historical Park. he mentioned a mastodon tooth that had been found in Franklin Court back in the 1950s. I, of course, asked if I could 3D scan the tooth and Jed arranged for it to happen.

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We’ve subsequently 3D printed and painted a couple of replicas, one of which I will send to Jed for use in his public programs.

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And, with permission of the National Park Service, you can go to our Sketchfab site and download and print your own: https://skfb.ly/XGAE.  Sketchfab certainly is a wonderful resource, but there is a character limit so I was not able to share the full catalog entry on that website, so I present that entry here:

Crown of a molar with broken roots, fossilized, entire specimen stark white in color, cusp heavily worn, from a large mastodon. Preservation style could reflect a taphonomy involving artesian springs, flowing water, the luster on the enamel is consistent with rolling in a find sand environment, such a spring feeder, or perhaps the seashore (sand, water, continuous immersion, with rolling action). Identified in 1959 as perhaps being from the Paris Basin, France. However, may also be from Western Missouri Spring sites. The specimen belongs to either Zygolophodon turicensis (Western Europe) or Mamut americanum (North America, perhaps Grands-Osages River, Missouri).
Found in basement of 316 Market Street, Franklin Court, Philadelphia, PA during plumbing work, 4 December 1959 (one of Franklin’s rental properties and later the home of William Duane, 1802-1809).  According to his correspondence, Franklin owned a fossil mastodon tooth and other fossils (many sent to him in the late 1760s by George Groghan, an Indian agent in the territory that became Kentucky) when he lived in London intermittently from 1757 to 1775.
Look for new models from Independence National Historical Park to be uploaded to our Sketchfab site in coming days.
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