Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

An 11,500 year old walrus skull in the Magdalen Islands

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The 11,500 year old specimen is a walrus skull discovered around twenty years ago by Serge Chevarie on the northern dune. It is one of the oldest walrus skulls in eastern Canada, according to the Musée des Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

  • Véronique Duval (View profile)Véronique Duval

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Carbon 14 dating reveals that there were walruses on the Magdalen Islands 11,500 years ago.

The 4-OCÉANS research council, in partnership with the Musée des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, has been studying numerous bones of walruses preserved by Madelinot collectors.

The first carbon-14 dating of 12 of the 200 samples of walrus skulls and tusks from the islands reveal that half of the specimens date from the hunting period in the 18th century and that 6 of these samples are believed to be between 2,200 and 11,500 years old.

There is notably a specimen dated 11,500 years ago. It is certainly among the oldest specimens of walrus from eastern Canada. We are really surprised and very happy with the results.

A quote from Jean-Simon Richard, the president of the Musée des Îles-de-la-Madeleine

For comparison, the age of the skull of walrus on display at the New Brunswick Museum is estimated to be 9,400 years old.

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We know that the Magdalen Islands were probably home to the largest population of walruses in the world, before extermination in the eighteenth century. We still frequently find specimens on the beaches [of the bones].

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The 11,500 year old specimen is a walrus skull discovered around twenty years ago by Serge Chevarie on the North Dune.

Jean- Simon Richard mentions that several studies have documented the presence of walruses in the Maritimes, particularly in New Brunswick and Newfoundland. However, no research had looked into their presence on the Islands, although it was known that there was a colony of walruses when the Europeans arrived.

He says that the walrus arouses passions in the Islands. This is one of the reasons, if not the main reason why the Islands were colonized by Europeans. There is a lot of interest in walrus bones. It raises the passions a little to see results like that!, testifies Mr. Richard.

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The director of the Musée des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Jean Simon Richard , with the carcass of a fin whale found on the banks of Brion Island. (File photo)

The museum director explains that it is normal, after a storm, to find walrus tusks or walrus skulls on the beaches. There are a lot of people who are keeping their eyes open for that, for monetary reasons, but above all historical ones.

He emphasizes that the next years will be promising.

Several scientific studies will come out of 4-OCÉANS. It will take a few years for us to receive results, both on walruses and on whales that have now disappeared from the St. Lawrence, such as the bowhead whale or the gray whale, says the man who, as a child, already walked the beaches of the islands with his father in search of walrus tusks.

The 11,500 year old walrus skull is now part of the collection of the Musée des Îles-de -la-Madeleine and will be part of the next exhibition.

  • Véronique Duval (View profile)< source srcset="https://images.radio-canada.ca/q_auto,w_160/v1/ici-info/1x1/journaliste-veronique-duval-gaspesie-iles.jpg" media="(min-width: 0px) and (max-width: 1023px)">Véronique DuvalFollow

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