A hot day in Springfield a month ago led Tony Blisset and his family to take a dip in the Sangamon River. That led to the discovery of what could have been, as his wife guessed, an old piece of wood. Fortunately for history, she was wrong, and his hunch was correct: it was a fossilized bone.
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Blisset landed on the bone when he jumped into the river, which was about 11 feet lower than normal because of the drought. Thus, the water was only up to his chin. Blisset said he normally stays away from the water because he does not care for fish. Researchers at the Illinois State Museum determined the bone is a vertebra from a muskox, a breed which is now extinct. Paleontologist Jeff Saunders estimates the bone is 12,000 years old.Blisset, who has donated the artifact to the museum, says he did take it to the McDonald’s where he is a manager and impressed his co-workers: “I had it in my office, and I was showing people, and they were all like, ‘Wow, it’s amazing!’ And they said they’d come and look at it here.”
Blisset says he had no way to preserve or care for the bone, so he decided the museum would really know what to do with it. The Illinois State Museum is part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Its exhibits are mostly of natural and cultural history. It is near the Capitol and does not charge an admission fee.