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By The Associated Press
The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Gold prospector kept fossil a secret


Last updated 7/24/2005 at Noon

A reclusive prospector panning for gold in the Quesnel River in British Columbia found something far more rare, the fossilized cannon bone of a deer, and kept it a secret for years, experts say. The artifact found by Ben Miller, a fossilized support bone from the shank, is jet black and hard as a hammer, said Norm Canuel, a local archaeologist who has been on digs from Peru to Alaska.

"It is rare to find anything like that," Canuel said. "Once I found the fossil of a shrimp in the Nechako (a valley in far northern British Columbia) that had the same black look, almost like a black diamond and really hard. They looked identical in terms of color and texture. It is not a common find for around here."

Canuel said that without carbon it would be impossible to pinpoint the age of the bone but added that it would have taken at least hundreds of years to fossilize like that.

The blackness may reflect a buildup of manganese, Canuel said, adding that he wishes Miller could remember where he found the bone in case other fossils also are in the area.

Bone now in museum

After keeping his discovery to himself for an unknown number of years, Miller recently confided in Jack Boudreau, a local history writer who suggested he take steps to assure the preservation of the fossil.

"He was guarding it with his life," Boudreau said. "We convinced him that if anything happened to him, someone might not realize what it was, just think it was a stick or something and throw it in the garbage."

On the prospector's behalf, Boudreau contacted the Quesnel and District Museum and arranged for the bone to have a permanent and protected home, along with a photograph and write-up on Miller.

Boudreau says the prospector is thrilled.

"He found a real gold nugget that day," Boudreau said. "I've seen a lot of things come out of the ground in my years, but in my lifetime I've never seen anything like this."


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