An estimated 5,000-year-old bison skull is being found near Syncrude’s Aurora Site.
Back in July, an employee was walking down a new access road that was being built for the site when he saw ‘something white’ sticking out of the ground.
“I do a lot of hunting and fishing and I figured it might be a bison based on the skull,” said Sheldon Aylward, who found the fossil. “It was sticking out of the material. We had a lot of rain at that time. I figured the rain would have washed away the material covering it,” says Sheldon.”
The area was quickly taped off after mine operations were informed of the finding.
The Royal Alberta Museum was also contacted about preserving the skull.
Photos were sent to Chris Jass, the curator of Quaternary (Ice Age) Paleontology at the museum, who believes this will help us better understand what northern Alberta was like thousands of years ago.
“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,” he added.
“This skull doesn’t tell that story by itself but represents a piece of that puzzle. We also have not received a lot of fossils from northern Alberta because it is covered with the vegetation and the soils are fairly acidic, which can break down bones quickly.”
The skull remains at Syncrude and will be transported to the museum once COVID-19 restrictions ease.