Bones Found at Indiana Caverns
Peccary Upper Jaw
One Big Discovery
When the Indiana Cavern’s portion of Binkley Cave system was discovered in 2010, massive amounts of bones were seen: birds, snake, microfauna, and larger species. The name “Big Bone Mountain” was coined immediately. The 5 hour crawl through water to glimpse them kept them shrouded in mystery for almost 2 years. Radio carbon dating is required to accurately date the bones. These findings will shed light on exactly when during the last Ice Age the cave was accessible – our first bone dated to 38,000-42,000 years ago!
With the creation of a new entrance in 2012, the first paleontologist visited. During his initial 6-hour visit, the state paleontologist saw 11 peccary skulls, a black bear skull, a juvenile bison, a fisher skeleton, bird bones, a snake, bear wallows, and claw marks. He immediately realized our bones were extraordinary and of significant importance. They were identified immediately as belonging to the Pleistocene (Ice Age) period - dating back 12,000 to 50,000 years ago. Indiana State Museum staff have been conducting excavations in other caves for over 25 years and found just one complete Peccary skull.
Though official scientific research has not begun shedding light, a story is unfolding regarding the Ice Age bones within Indiana Caverns. Years of excavation are sure to follow. Even older species may lay just beneath the surface. As more experts gain access to our Ice Age bones and excavation begins, we fully anticipate even more exciting finds. One exciting find, identified after we opened for tours, was the presence of Passenger Pigeon bones. The last passenger pigeon died exactly 100 years ago, in 1914.
This term refers to an Ice Age period of about 100,000 years ago and its related interglacial and glacial movements. Typical animals living during this time were much larger than their counterparts or cousins of today.
We know our undisturbed ice age bone repository is important, and we’ll proactively work to protect and preserve these bones until appropriate scientific excavations can be arranged. To date, no major excavation has begun. These facts are from observations regarding bones on the surface of the cave. No doubt many more species will be identified once professional research is initiated.
The most common peccary species found in Indiana Caverns is the flat-headed peccary. This is one of three peccary species found in Indiana during the Ice Age. They were a social or herd species and known to rear their young near caves and bluff settings. They are a distant relative to the pig of today. At least 13 peccary skulls have been found on the cave surface, along with thousands of other peccary bones. Indiana Caverns is one of two locations in the world where ancient peccary tracks are found within a cave.Skull at Indy Children's Museum
Unlike other animals that entered the cave, bears were able to come and go using the now sediment filled Pleistocene entrance above Peccary Plunge. They most likely used the cave for sleeping as several bear wallows may be seen along a small stream in “Sleeping Bear Boulevard”.Pleistocene Bears
Near the base of Big Bone Mountain, lies a nearly complete skeleton of a sub adult Pleistocene Bison, possibly Bison Antiquus. If confirmed as Bison antiquus, it will be the first Pleistocene bison found in an Indiana Cave.National Geographic
The beaver remains are assumed to be the same species of beaver that exists in Indiana today; however, there was a giant beaver that existed during the last ice age. Further research is required to know more.National Geographic
The fisher is a medium-sized forest-dwelling mammal native to North America. They are now found only in the far north where the climate is colder.Fisher on Wikipedia
We attended over Spring Break as part of the Indiana Cave Trail. Amanda was by far the best guide we had on all our tours. She was personable, knowledgeable and passionate about the cave and it’s preservation. Preservation is very important to us. Their formations are not as massive as in other caves but it is a beautiful pristine cave. It features a short boat ride. We were able to see Cave life. What I really enjoyed that other caves did not have was the fossils and animal bones. I think a must see. We will return for a deep down tour.
Michellelcsw French Lick, INTrip Advisor Review
Please arrive by 5:00 pm to take a tour. The cave temperature is 56 degrees all year. Weather is never a problem.
We have extended hours till 6 pm Memorial Day to early August. Closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.