Is This Petrified Bone a New Discovery?

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by Raymond Alexander Kukkee © Oct 10 2020

 

 

An Unidentified , Petrified  bone  From N. W. Ontario  Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

 

 

 

Is this Petrified Bone A New Discovery?

Is this petrified bone a  new discovery?  Could it be proof of a new species?   Umm…probably not, but it is always a pleasant surprise to stumble across something new.  Something snatched  from the ancient earth, an artifact from the past, one perhaps  never seen by modern human eyes.   What are the odds?  Perhaps one in a million?

How about  odds of a  casual, relaxing walk along a forest trail  resulting  in an astonishing find?   The accidental spotting of an ancient bone.  How old might it be?   Could it be a new discovery?

A  petrified bone with soil removed  Found in NW Ontario Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

 

Species:  Unknown

Never have any strange bone specimens, petrified, fossilized  or not, ever been discovered . At least not by this author/writer/blogger/explorer.  In over 40 years of prospecting, digging in rock piles, dirt, gravel and forest detritus.  Even with a lifetime of  reasonable knowledge, endless curiosity, and memory  of  observed skeletons of wild and domestic  animals.  We have never seen the like.  At least not in processing of meat including boning and sectioning of animal carcasses as a hunter, or  a lifetime  of farming.  A find of similar  pieces of bone,  has never occurred, much less a specimen appearing to be totally altered, preserved, or  petrified.

The original colour of the bone is shown on this photo, as compared to the pale bleached section exposed to the elements.

The Petrified bone was partially buried, when discovered.  Perhaps it was partially exposed   by the action of running water or  disinterred physically  many decades ago. Photo 2020© by r.a.kukkee

 

Dimensions,  Details & Potential Identifiers  for the Interested…

 Location and Presentation of the Specimen When Discovered

The bone specimen  was  found *west of Thunder Bay in Marks Township.   It was  partially buried  in undisturbed, hard loam/clay/silt soil of NW Ontario and retrieved in  August, 2020.  The  heavy, coloured bottom side was covered with soil,  but the curved (concave)  side  was faced up, partially exposed to the elements.

It is speculated the top of the sample had been   exposed to weather,  a local micro climate, sun, rainfall and  weather events, perhaps for decades.  Accumulated dirt,  minimal soil/ lichen growth were noted on the top surface when found.    Damp soil, moss and lichens were carefully rubbed off when dry,  but the sample was not ‘cleaned’ or washed.

Colour

The exposed top surfaces  are pale, likely  bleached by the elements  The  still-intact joint(end)  surfaces  were notably grey-white to pale green and intact.
The  apparently-buried, opposing underside  is  slightly variable in colour, typical glossy pale to unbleached bronze-brown typical of old  bone.

 

Newly Discovered Petrified Bone (Ulna+ Radius ) Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee 

 

History of the Location

Knowledge of  the history of the location of the specimen  suggests that  the bone —at one time— may have been accidentally disinterred from its original location, perhaps once  completely buried.
It may have been partially exposed to weather  for as much as a century or as few as 3 or 4 decades.   It  may have been washed out  from deeper soil by a known, decades-old major rainfall event,  or otherwise exposed along with stones,  windfall branches, bits of decayed logs,  roots, leaves and other forest detritus.

As oriented  when discovered  the specimen was  partially covered with soil and detritus  most likely deposited by  running water. ( ie.  heavy rainfall and  surface water flowing downhill and detritus pooling.)  Thereby being partially (covered or exposed, take your pick) , a large portion of the  unique original bronze-brown oxidation of the buried  section may  have been protected from bleaching.

The initial colour of the end joint surfaces  when the specimen when discovered,  was pale white / to  light greenish tinge.   The end joints are in remarkable condition.  The bone  was damp at the time of discovery. The end  joint surfaces in the photo following are extremely hard and resist any attempt to scratch the surface.  We dared to speculate that the bone has been petrified by mineral solutions.  After drying the joint surfaces retained a pale gray-duller greenish tinge.

*Note:  The specimen was not cleaned. Bits of mosses and/or lichens are are still present around and on the joint surface.

Complex End joint of Bone (Radius )   Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

 

The Opposite End, another  joint

Bone Specimen

Complex end of Radius + Ulna forming an unequal dual socket   Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

Note that both curved surfaces on this  end of the  radius (the heavy bone)  are equal and measured,   match the size  and   curvature of the  retainer ‘hook’  of the narrower, bladed ulna.

Integrity:   Mineralization?

The   bone  assembly ‘pings’ somewhat like porcelain’ when ‘tapped’ suggesting  complete modification of the bone by  petrification / mineralisation . Anthropologists should be delighted.  DNA people not so much, if there’s no DNA remaining.

Physical Description & Size

The unidentified  bone  is approximately 39cm  in overall length and weighed                     0. 786kg  at the time of writing.  (Canada’s Metric eh?  Even if the drywall square used in the photos for scale happens to be in Imperial inches.)

The structure consists of a heavy primary (radius) , and a lighter, curved secondary bone (ulna) which is fully fused to the larger primary.
The heavy primary bone (  radius  )(from slick terminal surfaces, joint to joint,  end to end) is approximately 28cm. in length.

The Ulna

The heavy radius   to which the curved ulna is fused      Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

The ends of the radius (primary  bone) structure are  approximately 9.5 cm  in width and 5 cm  in thickness. Preliminary  curiosity promoted online searches.  The  specimen was assumed to be a fused radius and ulna, information gleaned from  miscellaneous photos of  various skeletal remains.  (Later confirmed )

 

The Secondary Bone (Ulna)

The narrow, curved, (concave)  and variably tapered (flattened to triangular cross-section) secondary  ( assumed to be the ulna)  is  solidly, vertically  and smoothly fused to the heavy primary radius .

One end of the (curved, bladed)  ulna projects about 11 cm. (4-1/4″)  beyond the concave end of the much heavy primary ulna,  and functionally, forms the opposing side of socket(s)   for a potentially ‘y’ shaped ended ( double-globed (?)   bone.

The extended end beyond the socket structure of the ulna is approximately 3cm. x 6cm.   The end  as discovered  was apparently broken off    or shortened, possibly by scavenging (??) at some time in the distant past. 
The ulna  is solidly and perfectly fused without gaps as an integral, rigid and inseparable part of the overall structure.

 

The Ligament Channel

The ulna  curves (concave) to a vertical depth of approximately 4cm  along  the  narrow upper   edge.   The base of the ulna  at the fusion with the radius is thicker and  wider.    The structure displays a  prominent,  concave, smooth  (ligament(?)   channel  measuring approximately ~ 16 cm in length  x ~1.0 cm  wide  located  along the base of the fusion.

Unidentified bone ligament channel detail  Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

Two natural,  elongated  beveled holes on opposing ends of the ligament channel perforate the base of the fused area.

One end  of the curved ulna  appears to have functioned as a curved  retainer for a common socket structure.
The centralized position and curvature of the socket on the ulna blade matches the diameter of  two  (concave) surfaces on the end of the radius,  one socket dominant  and the other narrower. The structure suggests any adjacent natural bone once attached would have have terminated in a ‘y’ configuration,  possibly an unequal double- spherical end.

The secondary bone serves to retain globular end(s) of adjacent bone

Socket detail showing function of  radius  bone curved hook retainer   Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

 

Natural Physical Surface Damage

The petrified specimen appears to  display no  blatant indication of natural scavenging.   Gouging, grinding , tooth or chewing marks on the bone surface or damage typical of that inflicted upon bone by  foraging wild animals were not readily identified. Careful inspection under magnification may reveal otherwise.

 

Human Interaction and  Willful Surface Damage

 Of special interest, however,  are as many as five individual and separate blows  evident  on the radius bone surface caused by vigorous application of an unknown,  sharp cutting edge.
That the chop marks  cross the ligament channel is thought to be significant.  Were these hack marks  a succession of  blows applied to disable and take this beast down?

Damage inflicted by sharp blade from the past

Chop marks and bone chip removed by repeated blows with sharp blade. Note the alignment of the opposing marks   Photo 2020©  by r.a. kukkee

 

 

An initial, heavy blow from a competent cutting edge  removed a large chip of   oxidized bone. The resulting  cavity  displays a uniform colour and also displays a secondary hack mark in the cavity.
The  second  and  subsequent pair of cut marks crosses the ligament channel at an angle.
The probability  of one single secondary blow is suggested by the perfect alignment of  two marks on opposite sides of the channel.   One side clearly  fell within the cavity of the absent chip left by the  earlier,  most vigorous blow.

Such a strike  could  have possibly severed or severely damaged the ligament in the channel and may have been a critical disabling blow.
Four — less-severe cuts  are also present,  two of which are aligned  as  another single blow. That  pair again  crosses  the ligament channel at a similar angle,  and suggest a blow delivered from the same source.

 

Degree of Petrification or Mineralisation

Mineralisation or petrification of the specimen appears to be significant if not total.  The resulting surface is inert, free of odour and hardened.   *As a point of interest,   the official dog agreed.
( *For the record  my resident pups, for decades,   have  found and retrieved miscellaneous bones of all types  from our wild lands and fields repeatedly.   The dogs  completely  ignored this specimen, finding  nothing worth digging for, burying, carrying off,   or chewing upon.

Resident dogs,  over the of span of decades clearly did not  recognize this specimen as a  bone-suggesting the  artifact has undergone ancient and extensive alteration if not total alteration.
For the record, the assembly, when tapped,  produces  sounds more like those from  porcelain.

 

So, What is it?

To be completely honest, other than being a fused radius & ulna,   I have no idea.    I can not boast a degree in anthropology.  No bone forensics, or biology, either.     Bone science and specimen identification is limited to information found on the web.
We need  input, information, and identification from a dedicated , qualified anthropologist. Real bone people.

Where did it come from? From which species  did it originate?  How long ago?  Who and what caused the  unique,  clearly targeted, specific chop marks and likely the demise and butchery of this animal?

*The bone structure  clearly does take  the form of a *fused radius & ulna.    Perhaps an earlier  equine (horse ), bovine  (cattle type)  ancient Bison,  Elk,  oxen, or   a previously-unidentified  heavy quadruped.  (wow, a  cool four-legged critter!)

*Note that the complete  fusion of the two bones in our specimen  is apparently a very  unique and uncommon feature.

The size of the bone suggests  a heavy animal by any standard.    Our dear readers may observe photographs of “somewhat”  similar, but not identical bone structures  by Googling ‘anatomy of a horse ulna‘  or  other species.

No  definitive identification has been made or confirmed  to date.
Preliminary contact with  S. Hamilton,  Anthropology Department of Lakehead University, Thunder Bay Ontario and  submission of several photos  has resulted in  confirmation  that a  ‘fused radius + Ulna is very likely  the correct description of the specimen. Imagine that.  And  for the record,  now we know which is the ulna. Which is the radius.

Who knows what the true significance of this find will be?   We’ll find out.
There might be hope for this old wannabe bone guy yet. Time will tell.  When identification is complete,  we will follow up and advise!     If YOU  know what it is, kindly comment below!

 

 

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About Raymond Alexander Kukkee

A published author and freelance writing professional, Raymond lives and writes in Northwestern Ontario.
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