A fossil hunter refuses to tell authorities where he found a woolly mammoth skeleton unless they promise to give him half its value.
John Taylor claimed to find an entire skeleton while diving in a river near Beaufort, South Carolina, three years ago and still won’t cough up the spot.
The former navy diver feared the state would take the fossil, worth $500,000, without properly compensating him for the find.
Fossil and shark tooth hunter John Taylor refuses to tell authorities where he found a woolly mammoth skeleton unless they promise to give him half its value
He claimed regulators were refusing to re-issue the licences he needed to dive for the fossils and shark teeth he sold online and weren’t meeting him halfway.
‘They just aren’t open to negotiation or compromise,’ he told The State.
The South Carolina State Museum Commission, which by law must be informed of all fossil finds, said it wanted to see what he’d found first.
‘[We have been] made aware of the discovery and is looking forward to collaborating with the individual to identify the location of the reported find,’ it said.
The commission said the bones weren’t Mr Taylor’s to keep and by law it had first rights to keep any significant finds for the public good.
It said it would be the ‘custodian’ of the skeleton and use it to ‘preserve and encourage the scientific and recreational values’ for the people of South Carolina.
Mr Taylor brought up the standoff at a State House hearing in March on loosening shark tooth collecting regulations.
‘They don’t want to give me a commercial license, and they want me to tell them where the location of it is. They’re blackmailing me to find the location.’
Mammoths grew to between 11 and 14 feet high and weigh 6 to 10 tons with the huge curved tusks for which they are well known
The 47-year-old said he first found two teeth in the murky riverbed, then knee bone, a leg bone, a jaw and a tusk in the mud.
‘It could only be a mammoth. The teeth are a dead giveaway. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I’ve found teeth before,’ he said.
However, scientists were skeptical as complete mammoth skeleton were very rarely found and question whether it was another animal or just fragments of a mammoth.
If Mr Taylor was right about his find it would be of huge scientific interest, especially if it was killed by humans and showed people were in the area at the same time.
Only scattered bones and teeth of the hairy, giant elephants that went extinct 10,000 years ago have so far been found in the state.
Mammoths grew to between 11 and 14 feet high and weight 6 to 10 tons with the huge curved tusks for which they are well known.