New Record of Terminal Pleistocene Elk/Wapiti (Cervus canadensis) from Ohio, USA


  • Brian G. Redmond Department of Archaeology, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • David L. Dyer Ohio History Connection
  • Charles Stephens Sugar Creek Chapter, Archaeological Society of Ohio



Cervus, Wapiti, Radiocarbon, Pleistocene, Ohio


The earliest appearance of elk/wapiti (Cervus canadensis) in eastern North America is not thoroughly documented due to the small number of directly dated remains. Until recently, no absolute dates on elk bone older than 10,000 14C yr BP (11,621 to 11,306 calibrated years (cal yr) BP) were known from this region. The partial skeleton of the Tope Elk was discovered in 2017 during commercial excavation of peat deposits from a small bog in southeastern Medina County, Ohio, United States. Subsequent examination of the remains revealed the individual to be a robust male approximately 8.5 years old at death. The large size of this individual is compared with late Holocene specimens and suggests diminution of elk since the late Pleistocene. Two accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon assays on bone collagen samples taken from the scapula and metacarpal of this individual returned ages of 10,270 ± 30 14C yr BP (Beta-477478) (12,154 to 11,835 cal yr BP) and 10,260 ± 30 14C yr BP (Beta-521748) (12,144 to 11,830 cal yr BP), respectively. These results place Cervus canadensis in the terminal Pleistocene of the eastern woodlands and near the establishment of the mixed deciduous forest biome over much of the region. This early temporal placement also situates this early elk as closely following the last representatives of now-extinct megafauna such as the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) and contemporary with the Late Paleoindian inhabitants of the region.