The Tumbler Ridge prehistoric bison skull – Part Two

Charles Helm, Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark


A recent article in Tumbler Ridge News celebrated the recent repatriation of a prehistoric bison skull to Tumbler Ridge almost thirty years after its discovery in the gravel pit beside the ninth hole of the golf course. A 1993 M.Sc. thesis that included research on the skull indicated that some of the surrounding bones had been scavenged by the gravel pit workers who had found the skeleton, and that only the skull had been salvaged. The article therefore called on anyone with further information to bring this to the attention of the Museum Foundation.

One of those who read the article was long-time Tumbler Ridge resident Harry Prosser. It was Harry, in 1986, who was the co-discoverer of the skull. His colleagues that day were Ed Pardell and his three sons. Harry relates that it was found beneath five metres of overlying gravel, and just rolled down the slope when it was first exposed. He is adamant that there were no other bones involved. Harry took immediate steps to secure, cover and protect it, and then reported it to the relevant authorities. Within days a team from Simon Fraser University came to collect it and begin the research. Eventually radio-carbon dating established that it was 12,000 years old.

The information that Harry has provided helps piece this puzzle together, and will form part of the text interpreting the bison skull in the Ice Age exhibit that will be opened in the Dinosaur Discovery Gallery early in 2015. At this ceremony First Nations will be invited to officially bless the skull and welcome it back to Tumbler Ridge. This will provide yet another reason for Tumbler Ridge, the Museum, and the Global Geopark to celebrate.

Tumbler Ridge has become famous for its fossils, and the recently acquired Global Geopark status will ensure that this reputation spreads far and wide. In retrospect, this was likely the first important fossil to be found close to town. Harry Prosser and his colleagues set in motion an important trend: to secure, document and report such a discovery, and therefore ensuring that the necessary science got done, and that the specimen became a resource to cherish for all British Columbians. Thanks to the timely re-discovery of this specimen on an on-line auction, it has now been successfully repatriated to Tumbler Ridge and will be on exhibit. One person is probably more appreciative of this than anyone else, and that is Harry. He and Ed Pardell will be invited to the ceremony as guests of honour, and will be asked to explain the moment of discovery and subsequent events.