Eureka, indeed. For paleontologists, this was pure gold.
A mummified baby woolly mammoth was discovered during an excavation in the gold fields of Canada on Tuesday, a find that officials said is the “most complete” specimen found in North America. Officials believe the animal was frozen during the Ice Age more than 30,000 years ago, USA Today reported.
In a joint statement, released Friday, Yukon government officials and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation said that miners working at Eureka Creek in the Klondike fields found the frozen remains of the prehistoric animal, which still exhibited skin and hair.
Tr’ondek Hwech’in elders have named the female mammoth calf Nun cho ga, which means “big baby animal” in the Han language, according to CTV. The animal was found in the tribe’s traditional territory.
The woolly mammoth appears to be about the same size as a 42,000-year-old infant woolly mammoth called “Lyuba,” who was discovered in the permafrost of Siberia in 2007, the BBC reported. A partial mammoth calf, named “Effie,” was found at a gold mine in interior Alaska in 1948, according to the news outlet.
Yukon government paleontologist Grant Zazula found out about the woolly mammoth when the placer miner who found it decided to collect it, place it in a freezer and call him, CBC reported.
“Not only are they, you know, just sort of willing to help us out and hand over bones that they find, but they’re also totally excited to be part of this and to work as scientists with our colleagues,” Zazula told the news organization. “I don’t know many places in the world where we have this kind of a relationship between industry, mining and paleontology. But here in the Yukon, it works really well.”
“The Yukon has always been an internationally renowned leader for Ice Age and Beringia research. We are thrilled about this significant discovery of a mummified woolly mammoth calf: Nun cho ga,” Minister of Tourism and Culture Ranj Pillai said in a statement.
Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Roberta Joseph called the find a “remarkable recovery.”
“We are thankful for the Elders who have been guiding us so far and the name they provided. We are committed to respectfully handling Nun cho ga as she has chosen now to reveal herself to all of us,” Joseph said in a statement.
“As an Ice Age paleontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face-to-face with a real woolly mammoth. That dream came true today,” Zazula said in a statement. “Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world. I am excited to get to know her more.”
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