by Raymond Alexander Kukkee © Oct 10 2020
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Opposite End, another joint
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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!
Is that Incoming I hear?