To be honest with you, I don’t know how to take it all in, it’s amazingsaid Dr. Grant Zazula, a paleontologist with the Yukon government.
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, a young mine worker was digging through the mud with a front-end loader in Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City, Yukon, when he hit something thing. He then stopped and called his superior.
Upon his arrival, Brian McCaughan, director at Treadstone Mining, terminated the operation immediately. In less than half an hour, Grant Zazula received a photo of the discovery. According to the paleontologist, this young miner made the
most important discovery in paleontology in North America.
This discovery is that of a whole baby woolly mammoth, the second ever found in the world and the first in North America.
” She has a trunk. She has a tail. She has very small ears. She has the small prehensile end of the trunk that she could use to grab grass. She is perfect and she is beautiful. »
Grant Zazula began studying the Yukon Ice Age in 1999 and always dreamed of such a discovery.
This week, that dream truly came true.
For the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation, on whose land the baby woolly mammoth was found, the discovery is equally significant.
We are all very enthusiastic, including the elders and many of the staff and memberssaid Debbie Nagano, director of heritage for the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin government.
A discovery then the deluge
Tuesday, National Indigenous Peoples Day was a statutory holiday in the Yukon.
When the paleontologist received the email, he tried to contact anyone who could help him in Dawson City. Two geologists, one from the Yukon Geological Survey and the other from the University of Calgary, were able to drive to the creek, retrieve the baby woolly mammoth, and do a full geological description and sampling of the site.
” What is extraordinary is that an hour after they did the work, the sky opened up, it turned black, the lightning started to strike and the rain started to fall. So if she hadn’t been picked up then, she would have been lost in the storm. »
The baby woolly mammoth, named Nun cho ga, which means
big baby animal in the Hän language of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin, is about 140 cm long, which is a bit longer than the other baby woolly 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 she would have died between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, given the geology of the site.
So she died 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 intestine with grass on it. The mammoth was probably a few feet away from its mother, but ventured out a bit, ate grass and drank water and got stuck in the mud, the paleontologist thinks.
” It’s going to take days, weeks and months to figure it out and it’s going to take days, weeks and months of working with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in to figure out what we’re doing and learn from it. »
An Aboriginal ceremony for Nun cho ga
After Nun cho ga was retrieved from the mining site, 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 as Nun cho ga was revealed of the tarp in which she had been wrapped.
It was very powerful, says Debbie Nagano, who adds that the elders blessed the baby woolly mammoth. Peggy Kormendy, a Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder, gasped as the tarp was removed.
We should all treat her with respect. When this happens it will be powerful and we will heal.
There is one thing that stands out in a person’s entire life and I can guarantee you that it is [cette expérience] for memarvels Brian McCaughan.
University of Alberta paleontologist Michael Caldwell, who was not present at the ceremony, said he was fascinated by how time can hold back such harrowing stories.
It’s kind of a preserved-in-the-present miracle, a scientific goldmine, and just plain beautiful. For all paleontologists, this is amazing.
Based on information from Michel Proulx and Mike Rudyk