Construction crews in the East Village stumbled upon the tusk and skull of a mammoth on Wednesday, believed to be 500,000 years old.
The fossil was found at 11th and Island avenues at the site for the new Thomas Jefferson School of Law downtown campus.
A paleontologist from the San Diego Museum of Natural History was called to determine the age of the bones. The eight-foot-long tusk and skull were buried close to 20 feet below ground, according to the school's spokesman Chris Saunders.
"This animal would have been larger than a modern African elephant and the largest land animal of it's time," said Thomas A. Demere, curator of the Department of Paleontology at the Natural History museum. “It’s a piece of the puzzle in understanding the geological history of San Diego,” Demere said.
Several species of mammoths lived in Southern California during the Pleistocene Epoch, 1.6 million to 10,000 years ago, according to the San Diego Natural History Museum's Web site. The Columbian mammoth was 12 feet tall and weighed as much as 10 tons.
Wednesday's discovery will delay the school's construction for about three weeks. It's slated to be completed by the 2010-2011 school year.
In 2007, workers excavating at the site of a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in downtown also uncovered a prehistoric mammoth tusk.