Fossils dating back as far as 25,000 years ago have been pulled out of a unique cave in northern Wyoming.
The Natural Trap Cave is a 15-foot wide hole in the ground that is nearly impossible to see until you’re right next to it. Local officials had sealed the hole in recent years with a massive metal grate in order to prevent animals and people from accidentally falling through the hole.
Thousands of animals have made the unfortunate mistake of falling into the hole. Their fossils lay in layers of sediment up to 30 feet deep.
Scientists have been busy excavating bones and sediment over the past two weeks. More than 20 people have been using ropes and pulleys to get buckets of bones and dirt out of the Natural Trap Cave. The most promising bones and sediment are being shipped to universities across the U.S. and even to Australia.
“They’re very excited about the potential for what they’ve found. The analysis, yet, is still very preliminary,” Brent Breithaupt, one of the scientists who explored the Natural Trap Cave told the AP.
While I’m sure excavating the incredible Natural Trap Cave was amazing, the real fun happens back in the laboratories. Scientists will pour over these bones as they identify and date them. The oldest remains, found at the bottom of the 30 foot layer of sediment, could be 100,000 years old according to Breithaupt.
This recent trip to the Natural Trap Cave sets up an even larger excavation scheduled for next summer.
“The plan was to get a sense of the lay of the land above ground and below ground so they could proceed on this project in a very expeditious manner in future years,” Breithaupt said.
Until then, the Bureau of Land Management will re-lock the cave entrance.