And finally… dig with porpoise

And finally... dig with porpoise

A man has discovered skeletons of an ancient dolphin while digging a swimming pool in the back garden.

Paul McDonald was digging a swimming pool for his four children when he spotted a nearly 10-foot (2-meter) long mammal bone – later identified as belonging to a bottlenose dolphin.

The prehistoric finding was located in Causewayhead, Stirling. Archaeologists have called it the “the find of a lifetime.”

The BBC reported that the dolphin is believed to have washed up on an ancient shoreline after the last Ice Age.

Mr McDonald articulated that he recognised the dolphin’s skull because of its long snout, rows of teeth, and unmistakable shape, the BBC said.

The discoverer is also a medical rep in orthopaedics and works with bones – thus was able to identify the mammal.

“I was digging away in the swimming pool when I caught something unusual. I rolled it back and came down and pulled it out. I saw the roundness of the skull and then saw the snout and teeth and I knew right away it was a dolphin,” he said.

“I googled bottlenose and thought ‘wow’. Stuck in clay at that depth I knew it must be old. Now a tool has been found that tells us more about what was going on, it’s mind-blowing.”

According to archaeologists, the dolphin bones are 8,000 years old. They seemed to have been conserved in clay nearly 80cm below the current ground level.

Furthermore, accompanying the discovery, a broken tool made from deer antlers was found, suggesting its use for carving meat. Researchers speculate that ancient local hunter-gatherers likely turned the mammal into a meal using this tool.

Experts from National Museums Scotland (NMS) removed the bottlenose dolphin skull for analysis, although the rest of the skeleton remains to be excavated entirely.

A local archaeologist Dr Murray Cook told the BBC that the discovery could be the first of its kind in Scotland in over a century.

BBC noted that the last whale bones found near Stirling were in 1897, but there are no recent records of dolphin discoveries.
A truly great find

“It is the find of a lifetime. I don’t think one of these has ever been subject to modern excavation. After the Ice Age, following the retreat of the ice, this area was a vast inland sea teeming with life,” said Dr Cook.

He further said that Stirling’s earliest ancestors would have been walking the shoreline every day for food such as seaweed and shellfish, and if a seal, a whale, or a dolphin washed up it would be carved into almost immediately.

“The tool made from antler tine means that they were hacking into the dolphin and that’s tremendously exciting. The tip has broken off – we still hope to find it - and they’ve discarded it.”

Andrew Kitchener, principal curator of vertebrates at NMS, also emphasized the importance of the finding. He said there was lots of analysis to be done, but after they get the bones radiocarbon dated, they can work out the age.

He stated: “I’ve been at the museum for 35 years and this is the first time something has emerged from the clay like this. It is a really interesting and important find. It seems like it’s a stranded animal that’s just sunk into the clay and been preserved all this time until Paul uncovered it, which is kind of a miracle really.”

Additionally, Kitchener alluded to the small possibility of the dolphin being a female as its teeth are fairly worn, implying it’s an older animal.

“We’re only at the beginning. It’s just exciting to see it emerging from the clay.”

Currently, the bones are owned by the discovery’s landowner, McDonald; however, BBC reported that the antler tool could be declared a Treasure Trove, which means that McDonald may win a reward as the finder.

He said: “I’m just happy to find it and make sure it’s looked after and people get to see it.”

Sharing his excitement, McDonald also expressed: “We bought the house six years ago and I’ve found a few interesting things, like old bottles and coins, but I’ve always wanted to find something like this.”

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