In 2012, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) began excavation on Auvergne of the first Diprotodon fossil to be found in the Northern Territory. The Diprotodon, a large wombat-like mammal, is thought to be the largest mammal to inhabit Australia and although it is related to the wombat and koala it was more like a rhinoceros in size.
Photo credit: Dr Adam Yates, Curator of Earth Sciences, MAGNT
The fossil, estimated to be between 40,000 and possibly up to 1 million years old, was discovered two years ago when Auvergne Station Gardener, Linda Stone, was bushwalking during her day off. Climbing down the river bank of the East Baines River she came across an exposed two metre long fossil and reported the find to the Station Manager at the time, Stuart McKechnie.
Experts at MAGNT initially viewed photographs and thought the skeletal remains may have been a cow or a horse as the limestone coating on the bones can build up over a relatively short time. After Stuart provided a giant femur bone they immediately realised it was a fossil from a large animal.
The skeleton is positioned lying on its back, its ribs, vertebral column and pelvis are protruding from the soil, the skull and tail are missing. This is the first articulated vertebrate fossil found in the Northern Territory. Now the move is on to have the fossil removed before a big wet season washes it away in a flood.
CPC is working with the MAGNT to have the fossil relocated to the Museum in Darwin where it will be dated using thermo luminescence technology. The bones will also be cleaned up and checked for any marks from butchering. Human activity has been discovered and dated at between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago in this region, any butchering marks on the bones will make this significant find even more exciting.