Archeologists seek horse skull found in Carcross desert

Yukon archaeologists are asking whoever took the horse skull from the Carcross desert late Friday night to please return it. A skull was reported in the Carcross desert on Friday night.

Yukon archaeologists are asking whoever took the horse skull from the Carcross desert late Friday night to please return it.

A skull was reported in the Carcross desert on Friday night by a tour bus driver en route to Skagway. They had pulled off next to the Carcross interpretive sign for the usual photo-op when a tourist asked if what they saw were bones. They thought it was the upper portion of a bison, but it was later identified as a horse skull.

After snapping photos, the tour group stopped in the Carcross visitor centre, and the driver, Pete Lucetti, passed the message on to government archeologists.

Archaeologist Greg Hare went to the site Saturday morning to explore the remains – but he couldn’t find them.

After eventually getting a hold of the discoverer himself, it took a live FaceTime walk through of the site, retracing steps, to find the depression where they had once sat. Not long afterwards Hare came across a small stash of miscellaneous bones hidden nearby, covered with brush.

Going back to the site of the depression, they began to dig to see what else was there. “Bones started emerging from the sand in anatomical order, and we knew it was a full skeleton,” Hare explained.

The skeleton is not a fossil. It is likely around one hundred years old, from the population of horses that were reintroduced by Europeans in the late 1800s. Fossilized remains of horses can date back hundreds of thousands of years, from a time when original populations of wild horses were not yet extinct.

The remains in this case are not worth money, Hare explained. “It’s not like they are Pleistocene age. You can find remains of horses like this in many places,” Hare said.

But for Hare and his colleagues, they’re gold.

“We have a pretty comprehensive sample of most animals that lived in the Yukon that we use to identify other fossils and bones. We’ve been looking for one like this for years,” Hare explained.

Government archaeologists now know that someone had taken pictures of the horse skull a week previous, meaning it had been revealed by moving sand at least a week before Lucetti and his tour group stumbled upon it. All Hare and his team know is that sometime between Friday night and Saturday, someone decided to scoop the skull – and maybe more bones – stashing some extras in a nearby bush.

The bone-scooper likely has no idea their sand score is a valuable research tool.

Hare said these kinds of incidents do happen – people see things like this, think it’s cool and it ends up on their wall, then the garage, then the dump, Hare said.

“We’re not saying someone did something illegal or nefarious, but it would be great for us, we can benefit from it.”

Hare said it was quite rare to find skeletal remains in the sand, owing to the fact that lake bottom sediments that make up Yukon deserts were created at the edges of glaciers, so are relatively new.

Once the team knew the remains were not of archaeological era, it became a family affair. Yukon government paleontologist Elizabeth Hall’s sister Jessica came from nearby to help out with her kids as young as three in tow, Hare explained.

“The kids had their sand buckets and shovels – it made it a family day at the beach almost.”

Contact Lauren Kaljur at

lauren.kaljur@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley issued a public exposure warning on April 9. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
COVID-19 exposure notice issued for Air Canada flight

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley issued a… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read