A whole baby mammoth discovered in the Yukon, the first in North America

To be honest I don’t know how to take it all in, it’s amazingsaid dr Grant Zazula, a Yukon government paleontologist.

Just after noon Tuesday, a young miner was digging through the mud with a front-end loader in Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City, Yukon, when he hit something. Then he stopped and called his manager.

Upon his arrival, Brian McCaughan, Director at Treadstone mining, ended the operation immediately. Less than half an hour later, Grant Zazula received a photo of the find. According to the paleontologist, this young miner did it most important discovery in paleontology in North America.

This discovery is that of an entire baby woolly mammoth, the second ever found in the world and the first in North America.

She has a suitcase. She has a tail. She has very small ears. She has the small grasping end of the stem that she could use to grasp grass. She is perfect and she is beautiful. »

A quote from dr Grant Zazula, Yukon government paleontologist

Grant Zazula began researching the Yukon Ice Age in 1999 and always dreamed of such a discovery. This week that dream really came true.

For the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation, on whose land the woolly baby mammoth was found, this discovery is equally significant. We are all very enthusiastic, including the elders and many of the staff and memberssaid Debbie Nagano, head of cultural heritage for the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin government.

A discovery, then the deluge

Tuesday was National Day of Indigenous Peoples in the Yukon.

When the paleontologist received the email, he tried to contact someone in Dawson City who could help. Two geologists, one from the Yukon Geological Survey and the other from the University of Calgary, were able to travel to the creek, recover the woolly baby mammoth and complete a full geological characterization and sampling of the site.

The extraordinary thing is that an hour after they finished their work, the sky turned black, lightning struck and it began to rain. If she hadn’t been picked up then, she would have been lost in the storm. »

A quote from dr Grant Zazula, Yukon government paleontologist

Citizens of Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin and representatives of the Yukon government, Treadstone mine and the University of Calgary pose with nun cho ga.

Photo: Provided by the Yukon Government

The woolly baby mammoth, called Nun cho ga, which means big baby animal in the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Hän language, is about 140 cm long, which is slightly longer than the other woolly baby mammoth found in Siberia, Russia, in May 2007.

The paleontologist believes that Nun cho ga was 30 to 35 days old when she died and that, given the geology of the site, she would have died 35,000 to 40,000 years ago. It therefore died out during the last ice age and was found in the permafrost.

Grant Zazula explains that the geologists who recovered it saw a piece of the animal’s intestines with grass on it. The baby mammoth was probably a few meters away from its mother, but ventured out a little, ate grass and drank water, and then got stuck in the mud, the paleontologist thinks.

It will take days, weeks, and months to figure it out, and it will take days, weeks, and months to work with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in to decide what we will do and learn from it. »

A quote from dr Grant Zazula, Yukon government paleontologist

An Aboriginal ceremony for Nun cho ga

After Nun cho ga was recovered from the mine, she was taken to a nearby location where a ceremony was held. Led by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elders, about 15 people – Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in members, scientists, miners and politicians – gathered in a circle and prayed when Nun cho ga was pulled out of the tarpaulin containing her they had wrapped .

It was very powerful, says Debbie Nagano, who adds that the elders blessed the woolly mammoth baby. Tr’Ondëk Hwëch’in Elder Peggy Kormendy gasped as the tarp was removed. We should treat them all with respect. When this happens it will be powerful and we will heal.

There is one thing that stands out in all of a person’s life and I can guarantee you that it is [cette expérience] To memarvels Brian McCaughan.

A group of people gather at the site where Nun Cho Ga was discovered at the Treadstone Mine in Eureka Creek, Yukon.

Photo: Provided by the Klondike Placer Miners Association

Michael Caldwell, a paleontologist at the University of Alberta who was not present at the ceremony, said he was fascinated by how time can stop such harrowing stories. It’s something of a miracle preserved in the present, a scientific gold mine, and just plain beautiful. For all paleontologists, this is unbelievable.

Based on information from Michel Proulx and Mike Rudyk

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