The Swanscombe Tusk Project

During construction work at Swan Valley Community School in Kent a tusk belonging to an extinct species of elephant was unearthed. The village of Swanscombe has been a famous archaeological site since the early 20th Century when remains of "Swanscombe Man" were found, dated to about 400,000 years old - the second oldest human remains ever discovered in the UK. The tusk was partially excavated and identified by University of Southampton archaeologists Dr Francis Wenban-Smith and Dr Gilbert Marshall as belonging to a species called Palaeoloxodon antiquus, more commonly known as the straight-tusked elephant. This beast would have been about four metres tall and weighed about nine tons - much larger than a modern African or Asian elephant today. The school governors decided that this tusk big tusk should be dug up and put on display in the school along with several flint hand-axes found nearby.

They called upon the services of, who carefully excavated the very fragile 1.5 metre-long tusk, created a rigid plaster jacket around the tusk, re-enforced with steel beams, and lifted it from the ground to carry it away on a purpose built stretcher.

The tusk was then brought to the professional conservators at The field jacket was carefully removed only after the jacket and its contents had been allowed to dry out very slowly. The coarse gravel sediment was carefully cleaned away, and the very fragile and friable tusk was consolidated with a thin solution of a stable, reversible, adhesive. As the tusk is very weak and fragile, with literally thousands of fractures created by the constantly fluctuating conditions of alternate wet and dry periods experienced in river gravel sediments, a permanent rigid support was created for the tusk to lie on, perfectly fitting the contours of its underside.

The tusk will soon be on display in the school along with the hand-axes and a large portrait and clay sculpture - made by the artists and modelmakers at - recreating the extinct giant who roamed the area of Swanscombe some 400,000 years ago.

For more details about what we can do for you, or for a quote, please contact:
We are members of the United Kingdom Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

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