Sometimes, life sends the most surprising curveballs. For instance, no one expects a little backyard construction to become an archaeological site. But this just happened in Las Vegas when a couple’s pool installation discovered bones potentially from the ice age.
“What we found was when they were excavating the backyard pool, they were cutting through ice-age layers of sediment, and sure enough, they had a skeleton of an animal,” said Matt Perkins, one of the owners of the home.
Finding Ice Age Bones in a Las Vegas Pool
Matt Perkins and his husband recently moved to a home in northern Las Vegas. But when they tried to install a pool, their pool turned into an excavation after the construction workers dug up ice age bones from four to five feet below.
“Monday morning we woke up [and] the pool guy said he was going to come to check out the pool,” Perkins said. “We assume that was normal, we wake up he’s out front with the police.” 
They initially assumed the bones were human, possibly from a homicide. However, the crime scene investigators quickly realized these remains were too large to be from people. (Which was a relief to the homeowners.) Instead, they had to be fossils from an animal.
“We had joked on Friday that while they started digging, ‘Oh great maybe they will find a dinosaur for us and it will pay for our pool,” Perkins said. “Obviously, when they told us they found some fossils, that was more of a shock to us than we were expecting.”
The director of research of the Nevada Science Center, Joshua Bonde, came to the backyard to date the bones to the ice age. “It’s somewhere between 6,000 and 14,000 years old,” he said. 
What Kind of Bones Are They?
Bonde added that the bones could have belonged to a horse or an animal similar in size. Some of the bones were still connected, like when the animal was alive, a rare find. That meant the animal was buried before scavengers could ravage its remains. The bones found were its right shoulder blade, bones from the right arm, some vertebrae, jawbone, and a rib.
“So this thing is about four to five feet below the present ground surface and so the animal was probably wandering around the world in Southern Nevada, which was not nearly as populated as it is today. There were probably still people in the area and was probably a little bit marshy.”
For now, Bonde and his team will need to study the ice age bones to determine more precisely how old they are and what species they come from. He hopes to glean more information about the history of Las Vegas and the surrounding area from the findings. 
Experts say that about 14,000 years ago, this area was a watering spot in the Mohave desert. This must’ve been where this creature died all that time ago. It was probably also the home to mammoths, camels, saber-tooth cats, dire wolves, and other creatures that went extinct. According to Bonde, “This animal appears to be surrounded by partially compacted vegetation, so it probably died on the edge of a spring and probably fell into the spring to be preserved, or some other mechanism buried it very quickly.”
This area of Las Vegas is fairly close to the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, where rare fossils were previously discovered. So it may not be surprising if people discover more fossils as real estate develops in that area. “If you’re digging in your backyard, it shouldn’t be a surprise when you hit something,” Bonde said.
The Future of The Fossil
For now, it’s up to Perkins to decide what will be with the ice age bones since they are legally his property according to U.S. laws. “Our bigger concern was this might be something,” he said. “I’d love to find out what it is and preserve it if we can before we just go to concrete it up.”
Perkins mentioned that many people dream about discovering fossils as kids. “I didn’t really grow out of it,” he said. “To actually have one in our backyard, it’s amazing. It’s a surprise, (We) still kind of can’t wrap our head around it happening.”
As far as the future of the ice age bones, Perkins would like it to contribute to science and the history of our planet. “I think the farther out we build Las Vegas, it is probably going to be a far more common occurrence of digging this up and finding things that are important to our history and what went on here.”
Keep Reading: Boy Accidentally Finds 66-Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Eggs
- “Ice age-era bones found in Las Vegas backyard.” NBC News. April 30, 2021
- “Las Vegas Couple Shocked When Pool Builders Find Bones from Ice Age in Their New Backyard.” People. Jason Duaine Hahn. April 29, 2021
- “Ice Age fossil find turns Las Vegas couple’s new pool into a dig site.” CNN. David Williams. May 1, 2021
- “Las Vegas pool installation unearths bones that date back to ice age.” KTNV. April 28, 2021