The Bulkley Valley Musuem (BVM) has opened up a mammoth of an exhibit.
The museum, on the corner of Main Street and Highway 16, received some mammoth bones from the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa recently. They were loaned a left femur, two vertebrae, and a tusk fragment. The mammoth was excavated by Dr. Howard Tipper in the summer of 1971 from the Noranda Bell copper mine at Babine Lake.
Also on display is a rib bone from the BVM’s collection that is from the same find site at Babine Lake. The rib bone in their collection may be from the Babine Lake Mammoth or possibly is from another mammoth that was at the same site but that was not scientifically excavated.
Curator Kira Westby said this new exhibition is very exciting for the museum.
“It’s very rare for us to be loaned items like this, primarily because we don’t have an HVAC system that allows us to regulate temperature and humidity like most museums can,” she said. “We are able to meet baseline conditions that the Museum of Nature wanted to see, and that these items are considered low risk and stable, and that they will not be affected by environmental changes. It is rare that we are able to host traveling exhibitions due to the limited exhibition space in the museum, and the lack of environmental controls.”
She also said it is very exciting because the bones came from the region and are now on display here.
“At the time of its excavation in 1971, the Babine Lake Mammoth was one of only three that had ever been found in British Columbia. I suspect more have been discovered since, but I don’t know how many,” she added. “A tibia bone from the Babine Lake Mammoth was previously displayed at the BV Museum in 1979, and the Kitimat Museum in 1983, but as far as I could find no other bones from this mammoth have been displayed in northern B.C.”
Westby said the mammoth is believed to be a Woolly Mammoth, based on the known range of that type of mammoth, and because other mammoths in northern B.C. have been identified as woolly mammoths through DNA analysis.
The BVM’s mammoth rib bone was recently radiocarbon dated by Laura Termes of the BC Megafauna Project, which is part of the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University. Termes successfully extracted a sample of collagen from the rib bone, which was sent to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford. The Oxford Lab found that the BVM’s rib bone dates to around 38,000 years ago.
“I am extremely excited to have some parts of this significant mammoth back in northern BC for the next year. We are grateful to the Museum of Nature in Ottawa for working with us on this project, and the BC Megafauna Project as well,” Westby said.
The museum was also gifted a cast of the mammoth femur by the Museum of Nature, and this cast is available for handling as part of the exhibition.
The exhibit will be on display until the end of the year.
The museum is currently open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.