In the vast and rugged terrain of Canada’s Yukon territory, a routine quest for gold by a miner took an astonishing turn when he stumbled upon a rare and exceptionally well-preserved mummified woolly mammoth. This extraordinary discovery unfolded as the miner excavated the frozen ground with a front-end loader, inadvertently revealing the ancient creature hidden beneath the permafrost.
Heralded by a Canadian paleontologist as “one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world,” the baby mammoth emerged in a state of pristine preservation. Grant Zazula, the paleontologist involved in the investigation, marveled at the completeness and beauty of the find, noting intricate features such as the mammoth’s trunk, tail, and tiny ears.
Dating back approximately 35,000 years, the frozen baby mammoth stunned scientists with the extraordinary condition of its skin and hair. Authorities declared this discovery as the most comprehensive mummified mammal ever unearthed on the North American continent.
Believed to have been merely a month old at the time of its demise, the mammoth was found in the traditional territory of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin First Nation, near Eureka Creek. In a ceremony led by the elders, the calf was bestowed with the name Nun cho ga, signifying “big baby animal” in the Hän language.
The circumstances surrounding the mammoth’s preservation suggest a swift burial, possibly due to entrapment in mud. A twist of fate nearly exposed the remains to a second threat when a rainstorm loomed, endangering the delicate find. Prompt action became imperative, and paleontologist Zazula, alerted during a holiday, swiftly mobilized geologists to the site, preventing the potential loss of the mummy.
Reflecting on the exceptional timing, Zazula remarked, “(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 chart the next steps for Nun cho ga. This collaboration seeks to unravel the mysteries held by this extraordinary glimpse into the ancient past, shedding light on the life and times of this remarkable woolly mammoth.