When construction workers were digging in Matthew Perkins’ backyard to build a pool last week in Las Vegas, they made an unexpected discovery: bones buried six feet in the ground.
When the foreman arrived a few days later, he was accompanied by officers and investigators from crime scenes in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. They found the bones too big to be human and told Mr. Perkins he could do whatever he wanted with them.
“It was a huge shock to us,” said Perkins, 35, who moved to Las Vegas with his husband last year.
He called paleontologists, museums, and universities about the discovery, but no one returned his calls. He was out of luck until he contacted 8 News Now Las Vegas, which helped him connect with Joshua Bonde, a paleontologist at the Nevada Science Center.
Mr. Bonde was visiting Mr. Perkins at his home in the northern Las Vegas Valley, and at the construction site the bones protruded from a wall of the floor: a horse’s jaw, shoulder blade, right foreleg, and hair.
Workers initially found one bone and strange-looking teeth and began discovering more, said Jose Ortega, 44, an excavator. He said he knew they were animal bones, but the discovery was still a first for him.
“I just thought that was not normal,” he said on Friday.
Excavators will have to dig another five feet to reclaim the remaining parts of the animal. The bones are brought to the science center for cleaning and analysis and then exhibited to the public in the center.
Mr. Bonde leaned on the rocks below and above the horse and estimated the bones to be 6,000 to 14,000 years old. Two types of horses are believed to have roamed the area, and the bones could have been from the Ice Age, a period that began 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago.
The bones were fortified, a rare occurrence for specimens in the area as there are spring deposits along the valley. When water flowed through the springs, it moved bones around.
It is common to find fossils in Nevada, which was a wetland area during the Ice Age, Bonde said.
The Tule Springs Fossil Beds near Mr. Perkins’ house were established by the National Park Service in 2014 and are “rich in significant paleontological resources from the Ice Age, including the Colombian mammoth, extinct horses, camels and bison, and the terrible wolf,” According to his website.
Mr Bonde said he hoped the discovery would draw more attention to the possibility that others might have fossils in their yards.
“Fossils don’t care about political boundaries,” he said. “These fossils in the dirt are scattered all over the valley and humans have been evolving on them for decades. It is only a matter of time before more are found. “
Although construction of the six-foot-deep underground pool will be slightly delayed as the rest of the fossil will be excavated over the next few weeks, Mr Perkins said he was glad he connected with Mr Bonde.
“I hope this draws attention to the fact that great people are ready to work with you and help you in any way they can if they find something like this,” he said. “It can end up being a great discovery or an amazing story.”