Nov
12
2010

Giant bison remains found in Colorado

Giant bison skull: behind it stands Dr. Steve Holen, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Giant bison skull: behind it stands Dr. Steve Holen, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & ScienceCourtesy Photo by Heather Rousseau ©Denver Museum of Nature and Science
I remember as a kid riding across North Dakota and marveling at the giant bison we passed on a hilltop near Jamestown. I don’t remember if we stopped to see it up close, but it is billed as the World’s Largest Buffalo, and according to records is 46 feet long and stands 26 feet tall at the shoulders. I do remember having a real sense of its massive size even from the highway. It was big.

Now, paleontologists from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science have announced the discovery of a prehistoric bison that could give the Jamestown sculpture a run for its money. When a horn core of the bison was first uncovered, paleontologist Ian Miller thought it was the tusk of a mammoth or mastodon. A second horn core, and the rest of the skull were soon located, and when all the pieces were put together, it made for a very large bison, one with horns that spanned more than 6 feet across! That makes the Ice Age giant twice as large as the American buffalo (Bison bison) seen today in places like Yellowstone National Park.

The gigantic skull was discovered near Snowmass Village in Colorado, in an excavation that has produced numerous fossils of prehistoric beasts that once roamed the area, including mammoths and a giant ground sloth. The age of the former lakebed deposits are thought to be between 12,000 and 15,000 years old.

SOURCES

American Archaeologist website story
Additional Snowmass excavation photos on Flickr
Days of Giants and Ice
Prehistoric human and bison relationships on the plains of North America

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