You never know what you’ll find at the beach. All sorts of interesting artifacts and valuables have been washed up and buried in the sand, and you’ll often see hopeful treasure hunters combing the beach, seeing what they can find.
A boy named Archie Wood, 12 years old at the time, was one of them. In March, he was on Bexhill Beach, in East Sussex, England, with his father, and decided to go exploring with his metal detector, hoping to find some interesting military artifacts.
“You can find everything there,” Archie told the Daily Mail. “There was wars, and different types of bullets and shells.”
Archie didn’t have much luck finding old bullets—but he did find something far more interesting, and one that wasn’t made out of metal.
He saw something unusual protruding from the sand. At first glance, it just looked like an old piece of driftwood. But Archie decided to dig the object up—he had a feeling it could be something else.
When it was excavated from the sand, he noticed the weight and shape. It was over 18 inches long. He realized this was no piece of wood.
It was a fossil.
— eastbournenews (@Eastbournenews) November 15, 2017
Archie was thrilled and proud of himself for making this discovery. He immediately ran over to tell his dad, who needed a bit of convincing.
“The funny thing is, when I went to my dad, he thought it was a plank of wood,” Archie recalled.
Despite his dad’s initial insistence he throw out the apparent trash, he came around and realized this could be the real deal: a genuine, ancient tusk fossil.
They brought the fossil home, where everyone was excited to see the discovery.
“He was ecstatic. He couldn’t rush home quick enough to show it to us,” Archie’s grandfather, Neil Wood, told The Mirror.
“Everybody that’s seen it has gone ‘wow!’ If you feel it it’s amazing, it’s very heavy. We haven’t weighed it but I reckon its three or four pounds.”
They could only speculate what kind of animal it belonged to.
“You can see it was once part of a jaw,” Neil added. “It could have belonged to a saber-toothed tiger or a mammoth.”
To find out for sure, Archie and his family consulted with experts at the Bexhill Museum.
They didn’t even speak with the experts before they realized it wasn’t a mammoth.
“When we went into the museum we saw identical fossils in a skull in a display cabinet and we thought ‘that’s it,'” Neil told the Daily Mail.
Instead, it was more likely the horn of an ancient member of the bison family.
The experts concluded that the fossil was from an auroch, an extinct species of cattle that roamed Europe for thousands of years.
“It would have been a late Neolithic and early Bronze Age forest that certainly would have had auroch charging around it,” Julian Porter, curator of the Bexhill Museum, told the Daily Mail.
That dates the fossil somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 years old.
If it doesn’t sound quite as exciting as a saber-tooth tiger fossil, it was still an even more important find for the museum, a crucial link in their ongoing research about ancient forest ecosystems.
“It’s the sort of thing that we assumed was living in the forest but we didn’t have hard evidence,” Porter said. “We’re absolutely delighted with Archie’s find.”
Archie was told that his discovery was worth about $158–$185, and the museum might’ve paid him for it.
But after they helped him out, and seeing how much the artifact meant to the researchers, he decided to do the right thing.
He donated it to the Bexhill Museum.
The horn is now a permanent part of their exhibit, with Archie’s name listed underneath as its donor. For this artifact-hunting teen, it turned out to be one great day at the beach.
You may have seen our latest acquisition in the national press! Here’s what Archie Wood wrote about his fantastic find. A huge thank you to Archie for his donation. pic.twitter.com/pp4rTSXgNO
— Bexhill Museum (@bexhillmuseum) November 24, 2017