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Construction at Syncrude unearths bison skull estimated to be 5,000 years old

Last Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 9:23 am MDT

PHOTO. Supplied. A bison skull, estimated to be 5,000 years old, found at Syncrude's Aurora site.

The building of a new access road at Syncrude’s Aurora site has unearthed a significant find.

On July 25, an employee with North American Construction Group was walking down the right of way for the new access road when something caught his eye.

The find – a bison skull – is estimated to be up to 5,000 years old based on the size of the horn cores.

Chris Jass, the curator of Quaternary (Ice Age) palaeontology at the Royal Alberta Museum explained that the skull represents a piece of a historical puzzle.

“One of the biggest research questions for us is how did we go from an ice-impacted landscape where nothing lived in Alberta because of the presence of giant sheets of ice from 25,000 to 15,000 years ago to what you see today,”

Jass added that there isn’t a good Ice Age fossil record for northeastern Alberta due to vegetation and the acidity of soils, which can break down bones quickly.

According to Jass evidence found in Yukon and Alaska suggests bison migrated to North America about 200,000 years ago.

Sheldon Aylward, who found the skull said it’s the “neatest thing” he’s ever found.

“I’m proud to be able to help preserve an important piece of history.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the skull will remain with Syncrude and will be transported to the museum once restrictions ease.