Fishing teens find 5,000-year-old bison skull in downtown Cedar Rapids

'Special specimen' among most intact ever to come from Cedar Rapids area

Mark Carlson
Published: September 20 2012 | 3:45 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 12:45 am in

A group of fishermen have discovered a bison skull, estimated to be around 5,000 years old, while fishing in downtown Cedar Rapids.  The discovery was made last weekend by several teenagers near the 5-in-1 dam.

"Been fishing here since I was three and never caught anything like it," said Cody Sprague, 16, of Cedar Rapids.  "It's pretty cool."

The teenagers were trying to catch minnows with a fishing net in the Cedar River when the net became snagged on the skull.  One of Sprague's friend's then entered the water to remove the net, leading to the discovery of the nearly fully intact skull.

"It's a special specimen, there's no question about that," said Holmes Semken, a University of Iowa professor of paleontology.  "(The skull) was buried before it weathered very much."

Semken, who's currently studying mammoth bones found in Oskaloosa earlier this year, said the bison skull is one the most intact specimens he's ever seen come from the Cedar Rapids area.

Bison roamed the spot thousands of years ago, but Semken said it's rare to come across their remains.

"I wouldn't waste my time trying to find this sort of thing," he said.  "It's just not going to happen."

Cedar Rapids parks superintendent Daniel Gibbins called the discovery an "incredible" find for the area.  It likely ended up in the river as a result of the 2008 flood, after spending thousands of years buried near its banks, Semken said.

Sprague said he has yet to decide what he will do with the skull.  Keeping it, selling it or donating it are all possibilities, he said.

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