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Indiana Caverns History & More

Ice Age Bones

Massive Amounts of Bones

When the Indiana Cavern’s portion of the 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.

Shrouded in Mystery

The 5-hour crawl, through water to glimpse the bones, 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!

Paleontologist Visit

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.

More Discoveries

Ice Age Bones

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 nearby caves for over 30 years and found just one complete peccary skull.

Pleistocene

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 of today.

Scientific Research

Through official scientific research, 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 through excavation, we fully anticipate even more exciting finds.

Another Exciting Find

One exciting find, identified after we opened for tours, was the presence of Passenger Pigeon bones. The last passenger pigeon died over 100 years ago, in 1914.

Mega & Micro Fauna

  • Megafauna, now extinct mammals, were larger than their counterparts or cousins of today, including the black bear and bison.
  • Microfauna, thousands of small bones from a wide variety of species, decorate the passageways of Indiana Caverns.
  • Pleistocene Fauna (PDF)

Preservation

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. Two excavations have been lead by the Indiana State Museum- in 2014 and in 2018.