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BACKYARD BONES: Pool installation reveals 14,000-year-old surprise

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Posted at 9:55 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 15:06:52-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A Las Vegas couple says their ongoing pool construction hit a little bit of a snag after workers unearthed a set of bones which turned out to be a rare find.

The bones are believed to be up to 14,000 years old and date back to Earth's most recent ice age.

Matt Perkins and his husband recently moved from Washington state to a newly built home near Buffalo and Grand Teton drives.

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They were looking forward to their new six-foot-deep pool until Las Vegas police showed up at their home on Monday.

During the excavation process, the pool builders dug up a set of bones that were approximately four to five feet below ground level.

“Monday morning we woke up [and] the pool guy said he was going to come to check out the pool," explained Perkins. "We assume that was normal, we wake up he’s out front with the police."

Police and crime scene investigators determined the bones did not belong to a human and the remains were not of any law enforcement concern.

“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," quipped Perkins.

"Obviously, when they told us they found some fossils, that was more of a shock to us than we were expecting," added Perkins.

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Joshua Bonde, the director of research of the Nevada Science Center, visited the backyard on Tuesday to inspect the discovery.

"It's somewhere between 6,000 and 14,000 years old," explained Bonde.

"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," explained Perkins.

Bonde says the large bones may belong to a horse or similar large mammal.

“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," explained Bonde. "There were probably still people in the area and was probably a little bit marshy."

The area was fed by natural springs and served as a watering spot for wildlife in the arid Mohave desert approximately 14,000 years ago.

“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," added Bonde.

The backyard bone discovery is not far from Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, which has seen rare fossils, such as mammoths, unearthed before.

“If you’re digging in your backyard it shouldn’t be a surprise when you hit something if you’re digging a hole in your backyard," added Bonde.

Now, Matt has a decision to make regarding the fossils.

"Our bigger concern was this might be something. I’d love to find out what it is and preserve it if we can before we just go to concrete it up," said Matt who would like to see whether the fossils can help contribute to science and better understanding our planet's history.

“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," said Perkins.

Bonde points out that in the United States, laws are such that discovered fossils belong to the property owner, and in this case, Matt says he will do his best to investigate how best to preserve the fossil.

UPDATE: Since our story aired, the homeowners say they have found part of a jaw bone with teeth attached.

They are planning on turning the bones over to Josh Bonde with the Nevada Science Center.