I've never actually heard of spalted Mammoth Tusk - I just made the term up - but it's certainly an accurate description of the material this ball marker was made from. As most woodworkers know, spalted wood is wood that has been left to partially rot. Just before it turns too punky and soft to work with it is dried out and then cut open to reveal the surprising patterns and colors that have developed. This process usually takes 2-4 years for wood, but in the case of this piece of Mammoth tusk it probably took close to 20,000 years.
The tusk that this ball marker came from was found in the Alaskan tundra, and given the area it came from, it is believed to be around 23,000 years old. When I first received the 50 lb. chunk of tusk it had numerous cracks which were filled with a super-fine sediment. This sediment infiltrated deep into the tusk and I was able to break apart large chunks by hand, finishing the cleaning by spraying with a water nozzle. As expected much of the tusk was to soft and rotten to use, very similar to what happens to wood.
This piece came from an outer portion of one of those loose chunks. Most of the piece was too soft to use but there was this small section that was not only hard, but it also had these small bits of color. As I shaped the ball marker it was found to be softer than expected and once I removed the soft areas I was only left with this small piece