2 May 2012

Palaeo-Yukon Rocks!

By Claire Eamer

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog entry here about archaeological and palaeontological discoveries high in the Yukon mountains. Well, we're at it again! But this time, the big find is in a suburban Whitehorse basement.

Craig Duncan and Sandy Murphy just wanted to lay a new power line into their home in the Whitehorse suburb of Porter Creek, so last week they started digging a trench through their basement -- and struck bone! Before you say "haunted house" and "horror movie" though, relax. This bit of bone was attached to a hoof.

They stopped digging, collected as many bits of bone as possible, and took them to Grant Zazula, the Yukon Government Palaeontologist. He was -- and is -- thrilled. It's the remains of a bison. In fact, when the palaeontologists went back to Porter Creek and excavated further, they found an almost-complete skeleton of a bison.

Bison disappeared from the Yukon about four centuries ago, and no one knows why. The bison here now were introduced just a few decades ago. This skeleton might provide clues about the animals that lived here in the past and why they disappeared.

And how far in the past? The skeleton will be carbon-dated, but in the meantime, the palaeontologists are making bets. It could be as much as 10,000 years old!

For more detail about the find, see the Whitehorse Star story or this story that appeared in the Globe and Mail.

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