The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

September 8, 2013

Boys’ discovery sparks Oklahoma archaeological dig

LAWTON — The discovery of the partial remains of the ancient forefather of the modern buffalo has prompted museum officials to plan an archaeological dig in a Lawton park.

A leg bone of Bison antiquus was discovered by some boys playing in Elmer Thomas Park. And the Lawton Constitution reports that staff at the Museum of the Great Plains are preparing an archaeological dig in the park.

Three experts, including the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey, say the bone belongs to a longtime prairie resident, remains that are 8,000 to 10,000 years old.

Debra Baker, the museum’s archaeologist, says evolution forced Bison antiquus to make way for today’s bison. But they still existed within human history, which means the site will be investigated for both animal remains and evidence of human habitation.

Museum Director John Hernandez said he expects that whatever is found at the dig site will become part of his museum’s collection.

“It needs to be here,” Hernandez said, noting the site was found near the museum, which also has the facility to preserve the remains.

Museum officials are being cautious about commenting on the location of the find, except to say that it is within walking distance of the museum, but once the site is established it will be fenced in and marked with warning signs with the federal penalties attached to violating archaeological dig sites.

Hernandez said he expected the bone to be confirmed as a mammoth, an ancient animal that, while not common, has been found in several sites in the Lawton area.

Bison antiquus was about one-third larger than today’s bison and heavier with an average weight of 3,600 pounds, and its horns resembled today’s Texas longhorns, rather than the short, curved horns seen on modern bison.

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