WACO, Texas — A find tens of thousands of years in the making was discovered by a Hewitt man last Thursday, when he found a tooth from a Columbian mammoth along a Waco hiking trail.

Art Castillo, who found the tooth, says that he often explores the trail in search of arrowheads and other treasures. 

"I probably come out here probably three times a week," Castillo says. "I'm always looking down to see to find something and I found something even older than an arrowhead."

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What he found was a fossilized molar from a Columbian mammoth, larger than his hands. Castillo discovered the tooth while exploring the Cotton Belt Trail off Highway 84 in Waco.

Quickly realizing what he had found, Castillo verified the fossil with the Waco Mammoth National Monument. Raegan King, the Monument's site manager, says that the tooth is estimated to be anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 years old.

Credit: Art Castillo
Art Castillo found a mammoth molar while fishing in the Waco area.

She said mammoths only ever had four molars but they would go through several different sets in their lifetime.

"It's also why a lot of the teeth are found in pieces and chunks," she explained. "They're designed to break down and to grind down."

Castillo decided to donate the tooth to the city of Waco so that it could be housed at the monument.

"I decided I wanted to donate it because I wanted other kids and visitors to be able to look at it and like be interested in the site and also in Waco because Waco is full of history," he said.

Credit: KCEN
Art Castillo found a mammoth molar in the Waco area.

King states that even though the tooth was found nearby, it is doubtful that it is connected to the fossils currently at the monument. However, she says the tooth is still an important educational tool. 

"This is a chance for kids to touch the real thing instead of just looking at a model. It kinda also helps them see how heavy it is and kind of indicate how old it is and how huge they are," says King.

The employees of Waco Mammoth National Monument encourage people to bring found fossils to them so they can help determine what it is. King says it helps keep history alive and could lead to even bigger discoveries, like it did for the monument site.

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The monument started with a discovery in 1978 after those who found fossils reported it.