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ICE AGE “BISON OCCIDENTALIS” BUFFALO SKULL – ORIGINALLY DISCOVERED IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICO:  Recently obtained from an old Texas estate full of wonderful frontier period antiques, this skull is a relic from an Ice Age North American Buffalo, more properly known as Bison Occidentalis, the immediate ancestor of the modern buffalo.  Present on the Great Plains and Tall Grass Prairie, the Bison Occidentalis was replaced by the modern buffalo, Bison Bison, some 5,000 years ago.  Considerably larger than the Bison Bison, the adult Bison Occidentalis stood approximately 7 ½ tall, weighing 3,500 pounds.  

This skull was found in northern New Mexico in a dry wash or arroyo sometime prior to 1970.  Unfortunately, nothing more is known about the recovery.  It is interesting to note that it is believed that prior to the commercial buffalo hunts which occurred in the post-Civil War years, the primary cause of death other than natural causes were iced-over rivers.  Based on recoveries of skeletal remains, thousands of bison drowned when the enormous weight of herds crossing frozen rivers caused the ice to give way, and the animals were swept away to their death.  This would explain why so many of these remains are found in the banks and sandbars of rivers and their drainages.   

The configuration of the skull and the set of the horn cores in relation to the cranium identify this skull as the older Bison Occidentalis as opposed to the modern buffalo we know today.  One of the most common indicators of the Occidentalis is the position of the horn core tips – rather than being in line with the face of the skull as found on a modern buffalo skull, when a string or straight edge is placed from tip to tip on the horn cores of an Occidentalis skull, there is a gap of as much as 2” between the resulting plane and the face of the skull.  Another indicator is the span between the tips of the core, an adult measuring in the 26-29” range.   

This skull has the appropriate orientation of the horn cores to the face of the skull with a gap between the face and the core tip to tip line being 1 ½” and a span from tip to tip of 24”.  There appears to have been some erosion of the core tips and therefore some loss of the span, and too, this may have been a juvenile or sub-adult animal, and the skull therefore not as large as a fully matured adult.   

The bone has an almost petrified quality to it, with an even ivory-colored patina and a naturally polished sheen overall.  The bone is solid with no weak points and no fragile areas.  

This Bison Occidentalis skull would be a nice piece to display with a collection of early flint points or any collection of early frontier artifacts.  (0963)  $750

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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