Category Archives: NORTH AMERICA

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave

A fossilized shark head dating back some 300 million years ago has been discovered in the walls of a Kentucky cave. Experts believe it belonged a Saivodus striatus, which lived between 340 and 330 million years ago during the Late Mississippian geological period.

The well-preserved head shows the creatures skull, lower jaw, cartilage and several teeth. Based on the dimensions, the team believes the animal was similar in size to our modern-day Great White shark.

The ancient shark head was uncovered in Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Kentucky, which is Earth’s oldest known cave system, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

A massive, fossilized shark head dating back some 300 million years ago has been discovered in the walls of a Kentucky cave. Experts believe it belonged a Saivodus striatus, which lived between 340 and 330 million years ago during the Late Mississippian geological period.

It was first spotted in a treasure trove of fossils by Mammoth Cave specialists Rick Olson and Rick Toomey, who sent images of their findings to Vincent Santucci, the senior palaeontologist for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for help with identifying the fossils.

But it was palaeontologist John-Paul Hodnett who made the exciting discovery.

‘One set of photos showed a number of shark teeth associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage, suggesting there might be a shark skeleton preserved in the cave,’ he told the Journal.

The head was well-preserved in the cave and the team was able to make out the shark’s skull, lower jaw, cartilage and numerous teeth.

The well-preserved head shows the creatures skull, lower jaw, cartilage and several teeth. Based on the dimensions, the team believes the animal was similar in size to our modern-day Great White shark

Based on these features, Hodnett believes the shark was about the size of a modern-day great white. The Mammoth Cave National Park holds a trove of ancient fossil – more than 100 hundred shark species have been discovered so far.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’

A discovery such as this is very rare, as cartilage does not usually survive fossilization.

However, shark teeth are commonly found, as they are made of bone and enamel, making them easy to preserve.

A 300 Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Was Discovered Inside Kentucky Cave
The remains of the ancient animal are located in Mammoth Cave National Park (pictured), which is home to the longest known cave system on Earth-one that extends for more than 400 miles

Hodnett said teeth and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’  

A separate exudation found teeth that they believed belonged to the largest prehistoric shark that lived over 2.5 million years ago.  The discovery was made by divers in an inland sinkhole in central Mexico supporting anthropologists’ theories that the city of Maderia was once under the sea.

Fifteen dental fossils were found in total with thirteen of them believed to belong to three different species of shark, including a megalodon which existed over 2.5 million years ago.

According to the researchers involved, an initial exam of the thirteen shark dental fossils and their size and shape revealed that they might have belonged to the prehistoric and extinct species of megalodon shark (Carcharocles megalodon), the mackerel shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the saw shark, the last two of which are not extinct.

Hodnett said teeth (pictured) and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls

The fossils belong to the period of Pleiocene, the epoch in the geologic timescale that extended from 5 million to 2.5 million years ago, and the Miocene, an earlier geological epoch which extended between 23 and 5 million years ago.

Reports state the Xoc cenote is the largest in the city of Merida with a diameter of 2,034 feet and 91 feet deep.

An American King Tut’s Tomb of the Arkansas Valley

An American King Tut’s Tomb of the Arkansas Valley

During the height of its looting in the winter of 1935, the Spiro site—located in northeastern Oklahoma just 10 miles west of Fort Smith—was catapulted to fame by a headline published in the Kansas City Star (December 15, 1935) proclaiming it “A ‘King Tut’ Tomb in the Arkansas Valley.

80 years ago, in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, a group of six men – calling themselves the Pocola Mining Company – kicked in $50 each to raise the $300 Evans was asking for a 2-year lease to excavate the mound on the Craig property.

Descendants of the miners say they believed gold was hidden in the mound, stashed by early Spanish explorers who were traveling the rivers of the interior from Colorado, trying to make it to the Mississippi and the sea. The story maintains that the gold was buried in a mound near a river, along with the Indian guides who were killed to keep the secret.

They started with picks and shovels. At first, the relics and skeletons the diggers unearthed from the mound were of little interest. These men were after gold. But curiosity seekers would come by and offer nickel or a dime for an artifact that caught their eye. As word spread, curio hunters came by the mounds to buy up more of the items.

When word of the cache of relics reached Forrest Clements at the archaeology department of the University of Oklahoma, he tried to stop the dig. He attempted to buy out the investors, who were discouraged they weren’t hitting pay dirt. He tried to get Evans to rescind the lease. He lobbied the Oklahoma Legislature to pass an antiquities act to protect the mounds from commercial digs – and there he succeeded.

But not everyone agreed with his idea that the past was public property. The 1930s was the era of the fictional Indiana Jones and the decade after the spectacular unearthing of King Tut’s tomb. Weren’t archaeologists really treasure hunters too?

Clements explained the difference in terms of the greater good: “If the at-present, almost wholly unknown, the prehistory of Oklahoma is to become a matter of scientific record, the archaeological work must be done by formally trained persons and published in the orthodox scientific journals before the relatively few sites have been irretrievably ruined.”

He added a simple assessment, in layman’s language: “Scratching around can never be useful and is always damaging.”

Four months before the Pocola Mining Company’s lease was to expire, the new law allowed Clements to contact the LeFlore County sheriff’s office and file a complaint about the now-illegal digging on Craig Mound. A deputy showed up and told the men they had to stop, under threat of arrest. Clements thrilled that the slow destruction of the mound through shovel and pickax had been stopped, headed to California to teach a course.

ARAS/OAS team conducting a gradiometer survey at Spiro.

Upon hearing that Clements had left the state, the Pocola Mining Company snuck back to the mound to get as much for its investment as it could.

They hired out-of-work miners and decided to speed up their quest to tunnel through to the mound’s center. About 30 feet in, they hit fragments of conch shells, engraved with faces and symbols. Accounts tell of the miners hauling out the decorated shells by the wheelbarrow and dumping them near the entrance, where they were crushed underfoot.

Eventually, the diggers hit a wall of hard-packed earth, 18 inches thick. In his book “Looting Spiro Mounds,” historian David La Vere tells of the moment of discovery and what waited on the other side: “The pick blade broke through into empty space. Immediately there was a hissing noise, as humid Oklahoma summer air rushed into the hollow chamber beyond.” The miners’ lamps revealed one of the most stunning finds in the history of the continent: the largest trove of pre-European-contact artifacts north of the Mexican border, sealed in Spiro Mounds decades before Columbus set foot in the Americas.

What followed was a feeding frenzy. There was neither time nor inclination for photographs or sketches to be made of the layout or holdings in the central tomb. Witnesses tell of beads, pearls and arrowheads spilled across the site, feather capes and elaborate weavings trampled, ancient cedar poles burned as firewood and human bones piled at the edge of the camp, where they soon crumbled to dust.

The Spiro Mounds treasure made headlines nationwide. The New York Times trumpeted the significance of the relics, inaccurately noting that “each item taken from the mound is catalogued and photographed and careful records are being kept.” The Kansas City Star heralded the discovery of a “‘King Tut’ Tomb of the Arkansas Valley.” Soon, other LeFlore County mounds came under attack from relic hunters wielding shovels and driving mule-team-drawn scrapers.

With the burial chamber sacked, time running out on their lease, and Clements due back from California, the Pocola Mining Company decided on one last action. From La Vere’s telling: “In a fit of spite, just to jab their finger in Clements’ eye, they packed the central chamber of the Great Temple Mound with kegs of black powder and touched off a mighty explosion.”

The blast shattered whatever items remained in the chamber, creating a small cave-in and a large crack in the mound and, according to La Vere, “destroyed the Pocola men’s reputation as down-home heroes fighting for their property rights, blowing them instead into the ranks of looters and destroyers.”

The men were eventually arrested, but there is no record of them serving time. The damage was done.

Though the artifacts were priceless, the miners sold them for next to nothing. The money to be made was pocketed not by the workers but by dealers reselling the items to private collectors and museums.

The wealth of secrets lost in their rush to find gold disintegrated as quickly as the crushed fragments of bone and shell. They are now known only to the wind and the earth near the bend in the river where Spiro once ruled.

Grave robbers almost destroyed one of the most important archaeological sites in Oklahoma

Grave robbers almost destroyed one of the most important archaeological sites in Oklahoma

A miner’s pickaxe punched a hole through a wall of hard-packed soil 18 inches thick by drilling into a mound of earth on the banks of the Arkansas River in far eastern Oklahoma. The air hissed as it rushed to fill a hollow chamber below. And a foul odor escaped.

In the night, the miners quickly lowered a lamp, unveiling one of the most impressive archaeological finds in the history of the world, a burial chamber containing the greatest collection of Native American artifacts ever discovered in the United States. The Kansas City Star, in a headline published Dec. 15, 1935, described it as “A ‘King Tut’ Tomb in the Arkansas Valley.”

And the miners were there to rob it.

They had originally come to the now-famous Spiro Mounds looking for gold in 1933, the depths of the Great Depression. Six men called themselves the Pocola Mining Co. and pitched in $50 each to lease the site from the property owner, who needed the money to pay his mortgage and to treat a grandson’s tuberculosis, according to historian David La Vere’s 2007 book, “Looting Spiro Mounds.”

Artists conception of the Caddoan Mississippian culture Spiro Mounds Site in eastern Oklahoma on the Arkansas River. Occupied between 800 to 1450 CE, the site was a major regional power. The illustration shows the large Brown Mound at the center of the site next to the oval-shaped plaza to the west ringed by smaller house mounds. To the southeast is the famous Craigs Mound, or “The Great Mortuary Mound”, with its distinctive profile.
Grave robbers almost destroyed one of the most important archaeological sites in Oklahoma
A replica house shows tourists how people would have lived centuries ago at the spiro mounds Archaeological center in Eastern Oklahoma.
Heavily Damaged by the looters in 1930, Criag mound at the spiro mounds Archaeological centre was restored in the 1970 to show tourists how its originally looked.
Heavily Damaged by the looters in 1930, Craig mound at the spiro mounds Archaeological center was restored in 1970 to show tourists how it originally looked.
Craig Mound

Instead of gold, at first, they found only small relics and skeletons. But collectors and souvenir hunters were willing to pay for the artifacts, so the miners kept digging.

Forrest Clements, an anthropology professor at the University of Oklahoma, seems to have been the first to realize what the miners were destroying.

Built over the course of several centuries, at least a dozen mounds stood near a vast central plaza, a seat of power for Caddoan-speaking tribes that once stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Virginia coast.

More than 1,100 tribal leaders are thought to have been buried there along with ceremonial relics, including elaborate jewelry, weapons, blankets, beads, and effigy pipes. All of it was being looted and sold off piecemeal, with no effort to document or preserve the site.

Professor Clements tried to buy out the lease, but the miners were still hoping to find gold buried under the mounds. So Clements persuaded the state Legislature to pass an antiquities act, one of the first laws of its kind in the United States to protect archaeological sites.

A sheriff’s deputy forced the digging to stop. But the miners sneaked back later and redoubled their efforts to reach the center of one of the largest mounds. And that’s where they found Oklahoma’s version of King Tut’s tomb.

“What followed was a feeding frenzy,” according to a 2013 article in 405 Magazine. “There was neither time nor inclination for photographs or sketches to be made of the layout or holdings in the central tomb.

Witnesses tell of beads, pearls and arrowheads spilled across the site, feather capes and elaborate weavings trampled, ancient cedar poles burned as firewood and human bones piled at the edge of the camp, where they soon crumbled to dust.”

The miners stole what they could, then packed the burial chamber with black powder and blew it up. Historians consider it one of the worst examples of looting and archaeological vandalism in U.S. history. But not all was lost.

Opening Feb. 12 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, a new temporary exhibit will bring together 175 relics from Spiro, borrowed from various collections across the country. It will be the first time, and possibly the last, for these priceless artifacts to be reunited since they were taken from the mounds.

Closing May 9 in Oklahoma City, the exhibit will travel to the Birmingham Museum of Art in October and to the Dallas Museum of Art in April 2022.

“Our staff has worked for years to create a world-class, exciting and collaborative presentation of a people who have been overlooked for too long,” said Natalie Shirley, the Oklahoma City museum’s president, and CEO.

Man-Made or Natural? Mysterious, Giant Face Discovered on Cliff in Canada

Man-Made or Natural? Mysterious, Giant Face Discovered on Cliff in Canada

A mysterious, “large” face on the cliffside of an island in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has recently been re-discovered by a man who has been searching for the face for over two years, according to government agency Parks Canada.

Man-Made or Natural? Mysterious, Giant Face Discovered on Cliff in Canada
A mysterious, “large” face on the cliffside of an island in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has recently been re-discovered by a man from who has been searching for the face for over two years, according to government agency Parks Canada.

Hank Gus of the Tseshaht First Nation, an aboriginal group in the area, first heard about the “face in the rocks” of Reeks Island, part of the Broken Group Islands, two years ago after hearing a story that a kayaking tourist spotted the face in 2008, said Parks Canada First Nation’s program manager Matthew Payne. He added that Gus was not able to find the reported face until just a few weeks ago.

“Gus and some Tseshaht beach keepers recently discovered it a few weeks ago, and they were very excited to share it with us and the archaeologist we work with,” Payne, 43, told ABC News. “We went out to see it recently, and it’s remarkable. It really is a face staring back at you.”

The strange face was spotted on Reeks Island in British Columbia, Canada

The face, believed to be about seven-feet-tall, is similar to a wooden carving on the door of the Tseshaht administration office, Payne said.

“The Tseshaht has lived in the area for thousands of years, so we working with the First Nations to find out if there are any oral histories the face could link back to,” Payne added.

Now, Tseshaht First Nation and Parks Canada are trying to figure out if the face was man-made or if it’s a natural marvel, he said.

“Mother Nature is capable of creating all sorts of amazing things, though the face is very striking,” Payne said. “But we still can’t definitively say if the face is man-made or not.”

Though the Tseshaht and Parks Canada would like to examine the face up-close, the cliff the face is on is treacherous, Payne said.

“The island has a rocky shoreline with lots of hidden rocks, and it can be dangerous depending on sea conditions,” he explained. “You need to know what you’re doing to go and look at it.”

The Tseshaht First Nation did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for additional information.

Oldest North American Rock Art May Be 14,800 Years Old

Oldest North American Rock Art May Be 14,800 Years Old

A rock engraved with ancient marks discovered on a dried-up lakebed in Nevada carries dated as of the oldest known petroglyphs in North America, at least 10,000 years old.

The petroglyphs found on limestone boulders near Pyramid Lake in northern Nevada’s high desert are similar in design to etchings found at a lake in Oregon that is believed to be at least 7,600 years old.

Unlike later drawings that sometimes depict a spear or antelope, the carvings are abstract with tightly clustered geometric designs – some are diamond patterns, others have short parallel lines on top of a long line.

This May 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows ancient carvings on limestone boulders in northern Nevada’s high desert near Pyramid Lake. The carvings have been confirmed to be the oldest recorded petroglyphs in North America – at least 10,500 years old.

Scientists can’t tell for sure who carved them, but they were found on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s reservation land.

“We initially thought people 12,000 or 10,000 years ago were primitive, but their artistic expressions and technological expertise associated with these paints a much different picture,” said Eugene Hattori, the curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City who co-authored a paper on the findings earlier this month in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The petroglyphs could be as much as 14,800 years old, said Larry Benson, a geochemist who used radiocarbon testing to date the etchings and co-wrote the paper.

Radiocarbon testing dated the carbonate layer underlying the petroglyphs to roughly 14,800 years ago. Geochemical data and sediment and rock samples from adjacent Pyramid Lake show they were exposed to air from 13,200 to 14,800 years ago, and again from 10,500 to 11,300 years ago.

“Whether they turn out to be as old as 14,800 years ago or as recent as 10,500 years ago, they are still the oldest petroglyphs that have been dated in North America,” said Benson, a national research scientist emeritus for the U.S. Geological Survey and curator of anthropology at the University of Colorado Natural History Museum in Boulder.

Dennis Jenkins, an archaeologist with the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, called it a significant discovery. He led recent excavations of obsidian spear points near Paisley, Ore., that he dated back 13,200 years, and noted that the bigger challenge is identifying who created the petroglyphs.

“When you get back into this time period, if you speak with Native Americans they will tell you they were made (created) there and that is obviously their people and their artwork,” Jenkins said. “But approaching it from a scientific point of view – what we can prove – at this point, it is impossible to connect these to any tribal group.”

William Cannon, a longtime archaeologist for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who discovered the petroglyphs at Long Lake in Oregon, brought the Nevada site to Hattori’s attention years ago. He said they bore similarities to petroglyphs at nearby Winnemucca Lake, and Hattori began connecting the dots.

Winnemucca Lake

The etchings in Nevada and Oregon have relatively deep, carved lines dominated by linear, curved and circular geometrical designs. Some feature “tree-form designs” with a series of evenly spaced, vertically oriented V shapes bisected by a vertical line.

Researchers have suggested the etchings represent various meteorological symbols, such as clouds and lightning, perhaps the Milky Way.

“But we really have nothing to go on for these particular petroglyphs that go back 10,000 or more years,” Hattori said.

Benson has no idea what they mean.

“When I looked at it, I said, ‘These things are incredibly beautiful.’ We have so much beautiful, old Native American stuff in the United States, but this shows it didn’t necessarily get more interesting or more pretty with time,” he said.

Ben Aleck, a co-author of the study who is the collection manager at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s Museum and Visitor Center in Nixon, said he could not comment without permission from tribal leaders.

The Nine Mile Canyon in the Utah desert is the world’s longest & oldest ‘art gallery’

The Nine Mile Canyon in the Utah desert is the world’s longest & oldest ‘art gallery’

Situated in the desert of eastern Utah, The Nine Mile Canyon is the world’s longest art gallery. This canyon is home to tens of thousands of petroglyphs and pictographs over a 40-mile stretch.

The canyon’s art was created by the culture of Fremont and the people of Ute and depicts everything from local wildlife to cultural displays and beliefs.

This site of over 10,000 pictures, as you can imagine, is a treasure trove of information for archaeologists and an opportunity for visitors to step back in time a thousand years ago. In the 1880s, this canyon was used to transport goods through the eastern Utah mountains.

Nine Mile Canyon Petroglyphs

A road was constructed through the canyon in 1886 to connect Fort Duchesne to the railroad line located in Price, Utah. However, today the canyon is primarily visited by tourists interested in learning more about the Ute and Fremont people.

The area is currently being appraised for the natural gas that lies within the Tavaputs Plateau. Development of this natural gas resource could impact local art, causing ongoing debates on how best to proceed.

The canyon formed from the small Nine Mile Creek, a tributary of the larger Green River which empties into Desolation Canyon. Although the creek is not a major body of water, it is one of the few year-round and reliable sources of water in an otherwise desert climate.

The Nine Mile Canyon consists of interbedded sandstone, mudstone and shallow water limestone. The changes in rock type record changes in the expansion and contraction of the ancient Lake Uinta.

The Green River Formation, which sits higher than the sandstone units used for petroglyphs is an Eocene sedimentary group. The formation is located in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah in the location of Nine Mile Canyon.

The Green River Formation is the largest oil shale in the world with an estimated reserve of up to 3 trillion barrels of oil. This is larger than the entire oil resource in Saudi Arabia and holds a significant portion of the United States oil resources.

Why, then, have you likely never heard of the Green River Formation and oil and gas development therein? The hydrocarbons in the Green River Formation are in a solid form (as opposed to liquid or gaseous for most hydrocarbon development), which poses significant issues with development.

In order to unlock the oil one must heat the shale and essentially “cook” out the hydrocarbons, an incredibly expensive process.

In total, there are 10,000 individual images within Nine Mile Canyon located at over 1,000 archaeological sites. Many of the depictions were produced by the Fremont from 950 to 1250 AD.

The Fremont, advanced for their time, practised established agriculture, growing crops of corn and squash in the canyon floor. The Fremont build irrigation ditches along the canyon edges as a way to divert water to crop areas.

Nine Mile Canyon lies in eastern Utah

As we step forward to the 16th century the Utes dominated the region and added to the rock art that was previously created by the Fremont.

Several hundred years later in the late 19th century, there is the first mention of the Nine Mile Canyon in journals of American fur traders.

The petroglyphs and pictographs are carved and painted on an easily weathered sandstone, making the depictions vulnerable to destruction. The walls of the canyon are adorned with hunting scenes and a wide array of animals including birds, sheep, bison and lizards.

In 2004 the Nine Mile Canyon included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation list of America’s Most Endangered Places. This was largely due to increased natural gas development in the area and tourist activity.

12-year-old boy finds 69 million-year-old dinosaur fossil during a hike with his dad

12-year-old boy finds 69 million-year-old dinosaur fossil during a hike with his dad

For as long as he can recall, Nathan Hrushkin had decided to be a palaeontologist, and the 12-year-old had already made a major discovery. When exploring with his dad this summer at a protected site in the Horseshoe Canyon in the Badlands of Alberta, Canada, he uncovered a partly uncovered dinosaur fossil.

12-year-old boy finds 69 million-year-old dinosaur fossil during a hike with his dad
A 12-year-old boy made the discovery of his lifetime when he found a dinosaur skeleton dating back 69 million years.

It’s incredible to find something that’s real, like the real discovery of a fossil, like an actual dinosaur discovery,” “It’s kind of been my dream for a while.”

Nathan is a seventh-grader in Calgary, which is about an hour-and-a-half away. The fossil was a humerus bone from the arm of a juvenile hadrosaur — a duck-billed dinosaur that lived about 69 million years ago, according to a news release from the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Nathan and his dad, Dion, had found bone fragments in the area on a previous hike and thought that they might have washed down from farther up the hill.

They were just finishing lunch when Nathan climbed up the hill to take a look.

“He called down to me, he’s like, ‘Dad, you need to get up here,’ and as soon as he said that I could tell by the tone in his voice that he found something,” Dion Hrushkin said.

“They looked like bones made of stone – you could not mistake them for anything else,” his father, Dion Hrushkin, said.

Nathan said the fossil was very obvious and it looked like “a scene on a TV show or a cartoon or something.”

They sent pictures of the bone to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, which identified the fossil and sent a team of palaeontologists to the site.

Fossils are protected by law in Alberta, and the NCC said that it is important that people don’t disturb any fossils they may find.
The crew has been working at the site for about two months and uncovered between 30 and 50 bones that came from a single young hadrosaur that was about three or four years old, according to the statement.

Hadrosaur bones are the most common fossils found in Alberta’s badlands, but few juvenile skeletons have been found, the statement said. It was also found in a layer of rock that rarely preserves fossils.

“This young hadrosaur is a very important discovery because it comes from a time interval for which we know very little about what kind of dinosaurs or animals lived in Alberta,” François Therrien, the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s curator of dinosaur palaeoecology, said in the statement. “Nathan and Dion’s find will help us fill this big gap in our knowledge of dinosaur evolution.”

The fossils were very close together, so the palaeontologists removed large pieces of the surrounding rock from the canyon walls.

The bones were then covered in a protective jacket of burlap and plaster, so they could be taken to the museum for cleanup and further study.

One of the fossil-rich slabs weighed about 1,000 pounds and was more than four feet wide, according to Carys Richards, a communications manager with the NCC.

Nathan had heard of the hadrosaur before his big find but said it wasn’t the most well-known dinosaur. It’s probably his favourite now — beating out the wildly popular Tyrannosaurus rex.

Nathan and his dad have come to watch the dig several times since the discovery and were there on Thursday when the team was hauling out the last specimens.

“It was pretty fun to be there and watch them do their things,” Nathan said.

57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup Mummy Uncovered in Canadian Permafrost

57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup Mummy Uncovered in Canadian Permafrost

In Yukon, Canada, a perfectly preserved wolf puppy, hidden away for 57,000 years in permafrost and identified by researchers as “the oldest, most complete wolf,” has been discovered in Yukon, Canada.

At the Klondike goldfields, near Dawson City, a miner had seen something in the frozen mud wall, and he had to blast through it to get to it to see what it was. He found a creature that was named the Zhùr by the local Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation people.

Julie Meachen, an associate professor of anatomy at Des Moines University in Iowa, told CNN, “This mummy is so complete, she has basically got all her skin, most of her fur … all her soft tissues present, and she’s 56,000 years old.

57,000-Year-Old Wolf Pup Mummy Uncovered in Canadian Permafrost
This photo shows a closeup of the wolf pup’s head, showing her teeth.

The female pup, according to Meachen, is “the oldest, most complete wolf that’s ever been found,” allowing researchers to delve deeper into what her life would have looked like.

Using X-ray techniques, experts determined that the puppy, which had been preserved in permafrost, died at 6 or 7 weeks old.

Meanwhile, a technique called stable isotope analysis revealed that the animal lived during a time when glaciers had receded.

This photo shows an x-ray view of the wolf pup.

“There weren’t quite as many glaciers around, which means there was a lot more freshwater,” she said. “There were a lot of streams, a lot of rivers flowing, and probably a lot of other animals around. She lived in a lush time.”

The wolf cub’s diet, researchers found, was influenced by her proximity to water: Isotope analysis revealed “she and her mom were eating mostly aquatic resources — things like salmon, maybe some shorebirds,” Meachen said.

DNA analysis revealed the pup is descended from ancient wolves — the ancestors of modern wolves — from Russia, Siberia and Alaska.

This photo shows the wolf pup as she was found

“It’s not a surprise — she is related to the things that were there at the time,” she explained. “But the cool thing about that, that most people might not know, is that wolves in the ice age were only distantly related to wolves that are around today.

“They are still the same species, but they are very different, for being in the same species. Their genetics have changed quite a bit over time — the diversity of wolf has been diminished over time, and again, expanded.

“She is truly an ancient wolf, and she was related to all the wolves around her at the time,” Meachen said.

It takes very specific circumstances to create a permafrost mummy, the researchers said, although several well-preserved wolf cubs have been retrieved from Siberia. However, this cub, found in North America, was particularly rare.”It’s rare to find these mummies in the Yukon.

The animal has to die in a permafrost location, where the ground is frozen all the time, and they have to get buried very quickly, like any other fossilization process,” Meachen said in a statement. “If it lays out on the frozen tundra too long it’ll decompose or get eaten.”

Because of her “pristine” condition, experts think that the wolf cub died instantaneously, perhaps when her den collapsed, as data showed she didn’t starve.