Two men find ancient bison fossils in Missouri River near downtown KC

Two men may have stumbled upon something special, and possibly prehistoric, along the Missouri...
Two men may have stumbled upon something special, and possibly prehistoric, along the Missouri River.(Mike Ruth)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:44 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Two men may have stumbled upon something special, and possibly prehistoric, along the Missouri River.

Mike Ruth and Dave Jamerson enjoy scavenging along local waterways for artifacts and fossils. They’ve each found a number of unusual glass bottles, arrowheads, bones, and pieces of petrified wood.

But, when the two men teamed up over the weekend to inspect the river, they found something much more unusual.

The unusually low river had exposed several flow dykes near Riverside Park, enough that Ruth and Jamerson could search along the rocks.

Ruth tripped over what appeared to be a piece of driftwood. But, upon closer inspection, they discovered a piece of a skull with horns attached.

“You could tell right away it was something really cool,” Ruth said.

The specimen was heavy, filled with silt and zebra mussels. But, it clearly had belonged to a large bovine creature of some sort.

“I immediately thought bison,” Jamerson said.

The two searched on the internet for a possible match and soon realized that it may be a very old bison. They thought it might be thousands of years old.

“To find a whole head like that is pretty neat,” Ruth said. “I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

KCTV5 reached out to several archaeologists to find out more about the bones. Dr. Melissa Eaton, who is both the chair of the social science department at Metropolitan Community College’s Longview Campus and president of the KC Archaeological Society, confirmed that it was likely some kind of bison.

“It’s a great set of horns, a lovely top of the skull,” she said.

She added that it may in fact be an extinct species of bison. Bison antiquus was a mammal even larger than the buffalo of today.

“Ten thousand years ago, they were a dominant species in this area,” Eaton explained.

She said that bison fossils were rare, but not uncommon for the region. This particular specimen may be unusual because it is so large and relatively intact.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” Eaton said. “I would have been very excited to find this.”

Ruth and Jamerson were both excited by their find. They’re still trying to figure out what to do with it but, for now, they’re just happy to have uncovered something so unique.

“Anybody could have found it,” Jamerson said. “I’m just lucky to be that guy.”