(CNN) — They were panning for gold in the Canadian Klondike permafrost. Instead, they discovered what Canadian experts say is the most complete mummified woolly mammoth found in North America.
Miners working in the Klondike goldfields discovered the baby woolly mammoth frozen in the traditional territory of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin on Tuesday, according to a press release from the Yukon government.
Elders of the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin, a First Nations group who have lived along the Yukon River for millennia, named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, which means “big baby animal” in the Hän language.
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph called the discovery “a remarkable recovery for our First Nation” in the statement.
“We look forward to working with the Government of Yukon on the next steps in the process to move forward with these remains in a way that respects our traditions, culture and laws. We are grateful to the Elders who have guided us thus far and the name they have provided for us,” said Joseph.
The baby is female and likely died during the ice age more than 30,000 years ago, the statement said. While a partial mammoth calf was found in 1948 in Alaska, Nun cha go is the first nearly complete and best-preserved mummified woolly mammoth found in North America, the release
“It’s amazing,” Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elder Peggy Kormendy said in the news release. “It took my breath away when they took the tarp off. We should all treat it with respect.
Recovering the mummified calf required collaboration between Treadstone Mining, Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin and the Yukon government, the statement said.
“As an Ice Age paleontologist, it has been a dream of my life to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth,” Yukon paleontologist Grant Zazula said in the statement. “That dream has come true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified Ice Age animals ever discovered in the world. I’m excited to get to know her more.
Scientists believe woolly mammoths, which roamed North America alongside wild horses, cave lions and giant bison, died out just 4,000 years ago. As an adult, Nun cho ga could have reached 13 feet at the shoulder.
On Twitter, geomorphologist Dan Shugar describes his own experience helping to retrieve the mummified baby, and noted the “incredible” preservation of her fingernails, skin, hair, trunk and intestines.
“Being part of the recovery of Nun cho ga, the baby woolly mammoth found in the Klondike permafrost this week (on the Solstice and Indigenous Peoples Day!), has been the most exciting science thing I have ever been involved in. , without exception. ,” he wrote.