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Ontario Pleistocene: The Ice Age Horse Debate

Some of the most interesting finds in archaeology are discovered by amateurs. Jarrod Barker, publisher of, licensed prospector, artist/musician, and antiquarian, stumbled upon evidence of the Equus scotti- Ice Age horse on the shore of Lake Erie in southern Ontario. 

Not only were there 9 teeth, teeth from the shoreline and one inland; but also numerous lithic finds of Paleo-Indian inhabitants.

And so, the debate began

Barker contacted Dr. Gary Warrick, archaeologist, who acknowledged it was possible that several of the stone fragments were tools. He had difficulty identifying them as tools due to signs of wave and surf rolling. There were strong indicators (flaking and conchoidal fractures) that the finds were Paleolithic. Some of the most recent finds include brown chert lithics, much like the brown chert found in Texas, a stone not native to southern Ontario. There were strong indicators (flaking and conchoidal fractures) that the finds were Paleolithic. An interesting find is a possible hand axe, with clear bilateral flaking – a process not achievable by nature. Plus, there are multiple pierced pebbles!

So far, it seems like there were Paleo-Indian inhabitants around Lake Erie – odd since most of the archaeological community is against the possibility of a pre-Bering Strait migration. What about the teeth?

Background Information: Equus scotti is an extinct species of horse that inhabited North America during the Pleistocene epoch. Teeth of the Equus scotti are notably larger than the Equus caballus and Equus complicates. Both of the latter have teeth similar in size to the modern day horse, Equus ferus caballus. For more information on Equus teeth, please read “Aftonian Mammalian Fauna” by S. Calvin in Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, Volume 20, by Geological Society of America.

Barker sent out two sets of samples to Dr. Dan Walker, fossilized animal remains specialist and assistant state archaeologist of Wyoming. Walker identified three teeth that he was almost positive about dating as Pleistocene. Barker then contacted the Royal Ontario Museum. Seeing how he was working under a mentor, a respectable archaeologist, Barker assumed that maybe someone would want to come down and check it out.

Their response was unexpected

David Seymour, assistant curator in the paleobiology section of the Royal Ontario Museum, claimed that Pleistocene horses did not travel north of Ohio. Adding to that, the teeth discovered were most likely eroded away by water and that Pleistocene horses had teeth that are very similar to those of the modern horse. Seymour told The Intelligencer that he had “only seen photos of the teeth” but did not want to “dismiss Barker’s discovery out of hand.”
According to the individuals Barker consulted, the teeth are Pleistocene. Wave patterns on the caps are easily identifiable – a pattern not seen on modern day horse teeth!

For those of you who need more background, the Ice Age horse originated in North America and traveled to Europe sometime before the Pleistocene epoch, which lasted 1.8 million years. The period ended with the mass extinction of large animals, such as the mastodons, mammoths, sabre-tooth tiger, and horses… or so we think. After the extinction of the Ice Age horse, horses were reintroduced to America during the Spanish Conquest.

Small problem with that – one tooth was found in a dry streambed, another in a stream pool that emptied into Lake Erie, and the rest were found on the high beach shore land on sand mixed with glacial pebbles. One tooth was actually discovered three kilometers inland. Contrary to the Museum’s claim, a bird most likely did not drop it off in the middle of nowhere. A couple teeth even look burnt: an excellent piece of information that could possibly support a pre-Clovis site if the site were excavated more thoroughly.
And so the debate continues…

Radiocarbon dating is expensive. In Texas, it costs at least $350 per sample. For Barker, testing the teeth in Ontario, would cost at least $700 per sample. The Royal Ontario Museum agreed that if Barker tested the teeth, and the dates came back as Pleistocene, they would publish the teeth could have come from the ballast tanks of Lake Erie freighters, freighters that would have come from Europe. Barker understands the need for a scientist to come forward and champion the finds with analysis, study and dating of the teeth and the lithics.

As a closing to our interview, Jarrod Barker said, “I think I’m sitting on an archaeological and anthropological gold mine...”

Author: Melanie Magdalena | Source: Bermuda Quest [March 06, 2012]

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  1. The evidence continue to mount of Pre-Clovis human habitation in the Americas. These Pleistocene horse fossials must definately tested to find out their age and if proof of association with humans this is a very important finds.

  2. Last week I retrieved what appears to be (based on comparisons to photo's on the 'net)a phalange. This is a robust, partially fossilized complete bone. Discovered 'sticking out' of Lake Erie silt deposit from one of the locations that I retrieved a tooth, I believe more skeletal remains will turn up. Jarrod Barker @thesiloteam


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