[imagesource: el-cabrito / DeviantArt]
June 21 this year turned out to be a rather significant day.
Besides being National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, as well as the summer solstice (the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere), it was also the day that an almost perfectly preserved 30 000-year-old baby woolly mammoth was found at Canada’s Yukon mine.
She was chanced upon by a gold miner named Travis Mudry, astoundingly preserved over all those years thanks to the muddy permafrost tomb that she lay in.
Mudry might not have struck gold, but he still found something that left a whole cohort of scientists and First Nations community members completely dumbfounded.
As Gizmodo reports, looking at the initial photograph from where the little mammoth was found, she looks like she only recently met her demise, with so many of her features still intact:
What also makes this discovery remarkable is how the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people, one of 14 First Nations in the Yukon, were included since the animal was found on their land (and on the day that honors them) in Canada:
Her name is Nun cho ga, a name decided upon by Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elders.
“‘Nun go’ is ‘baby,'” Debbie Nagano, heritage director of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government, told Gizmodo, explaining the words chosen from the Hän language. “‘Cho’, of course, is ‘big.’ And ‘go’ is ‘animal.’ ”
Upon his remarkable discovery, Mudry got in touch with Grant Zazula, a Yukon palaeontologist, who quickly gathered a team of people to race to recover and preserve the mammoth.
Somewhere along the line, Jeff Bond, a superficial geologist with the Yukon Geological Survey, also became involved:
Bond’s voice was emphatic when he described the first time he saw Nun cho ga. “It just took your breath away. That’s what hit me the most, I think: that this little creature did not have much of a chance. You definitely feel that, but I was just shocked and in awe once I saw it. I could not believe it. It’s just like, wow, I’m seeing a perfectly preserved mammoth in front of me. I never would have thought that would happen in my career. Ever. ”
Battling a storm, the rancid stench, and the fast melting landscape, the team finally located a large local freezer in which to preserve Nun cho ga.
Then the members of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in came to see Nun cho ga in person:
“There were gasps in the room,” Bond said, describing the moment the tarp was removed.
For Nagano, her first reaction was “hard to explain… It’s going to be a big responsibility to look after and to follow how we respect it in each one of us. It’s very powerful. ”
“The Elders needed to bless Nun cho ga,” Nagano continued. “That took place, and that was powerful. It was unbelievable. And the power within that room was you could not even speak. ”
The paleontological work at the site will continue over the summer, where they’ve already uncovered other fossils, including “bison, horse, and mammoth bones, frozen squirrel nests, and a partial large carnivore skull,” said Zazula.