Update June 5:
Indiana Caverns plans to open June 15.
Bones of animals that lived in the most recent ice age were recently found in a cave in southern Indiana.
They were found in Indiana Caverns, a commercial cave that is scheduled to open in the next month and is part of the Binkley Cave system—the 11th longest cave system in the U.S.
Indiana Caverns owner Gary Roberson says when cavers were first exploring the cave about two years ago to see if it could be turned into a commercial cave, they found lots of bones in one cave room, but did not realize their significance.
“Our natural thought was, there must have been an entrance here up above and maybe a pit or something that came to this room and maybe early settlers to Indiana threw their dead cows and stuff down in here,” he says. “We just assumed they were bones that were 150 to 200 years old.”
One they were able to easily access the cave room just this past year, the Indiana State Museum’s senior research curator of paleobiology Ronald Richards went to look at the bones. He realized they were flat-headed peccaries, pig-like creatures that lived during the ice age and most likely fell into the cave but were not able to get out.
“We haven’t got any radio carbon dates yet but it’s probably in the order of 15,000 20,000, 30,000, maybe 40,000 years ago,” he says. “And this happened repeatedly through time, so we’ve probably got parts of hundreds of these flat-headed peccaries.”
The next step is to preserve the bones. Roberson says he does not know if people will be able to see the bones as soon as the cave opens, but he is considering trying to open a museum next to the cave to house them.