In the rugged expanse of Canada’s Yukon territory, a gold miner’s quest for precious metal took an unexpected turn when he unearthed not gold, but an astonishingly well-preserved mummified woolly mammoth. This remarkable discovery occurred as the miner delved into the permafrost with a front-end loader, striking the frozen creature hidden beneath.
Described by a Canadian paleontologist as “one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world”, the baby mammoth emerged in pristine condition. Grant Zazula, the paleontologist involved, expressed awe at the find, highlighting the mammoth’s completeness, beauty, and the presence of intricate features such as its trunk, tail, and tiny ears.
Believed to be around 35,000 years old, the frozen baby mammoth astounded scientists with the remarkable preservation of its skin and hair. Officials declared this find as the most comprehensive mummified mammal unearthed on the North American continent.
Estimated to be just a month old at the time of its demise, the mammoth was discovered in the traditional territory of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation, near Eureka Creek. In a ceremony led by the elders, the calf was named Nun cho ga, signifying “big baby animal” in the Hän language.
The circumstances surrounding the mammoth’s preservation hint at a rapid burial, likely caused by entrapment in mud. A twist of fate nearly subjected the remains to a second threat when a rainstorm endangered the delicate find. Prompt action was crucial, and paleontologist Zazula, alerted during a holiday, swiftly mobilized geologists to the site, preventing the potential loss of the mummy.
Zazula reflected on the extraordinary timing, stating: “(T)he amazing thing is, within an hour of them being there to do the work, the sky opened up, it turned black, lightning started striking and rain started pouring in. So if she wasn’t recovered at that time, she would have been lost in the storm”.
Now, a collaborative effort between Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and scientists is underway to determine the next steps for Nun cho ga, unraveling the mysteries held by this extraordinary glimpse into the ancient past.