Opened in 1997, the Yukon
Beringia Interpretive Centre is a facility designed to tell the story of
Beringia. It began with the recognition that Beringia holds vital information to
cultures, landscapes and environments of the past. In 1976, the National
Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada designated "Beringia" as
a theme of national significance. This theme is now finding expression in the
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. Featuring dynamic new exhibits, the Centre
seeks to introduce a world of woolly mammoths, Jefferson's ground sloths,
scimitar cats, giant beavers, steppe tundra and North America's first people. It
explores the discovery of fossils, frozen mummified remains and other
paleontological and archaeological finds throughout the area. It will trace a
history of a time long past that holds a key to many mysteries today.
Cat (Homotherium serum)
The scimitar cat was
one of Beringia's most ferocious predators.
The lion-sized meat-eater lived in most of Canada and the United States in the
last part of the Ice Age. It preyed on large, thick-skinned plant-eaters,
including mammoth and mastodon. Its long fangs were used to
cut the throat of its prey. Scimitar cats had relatively flat feet compared to
its descendants, like the lion or the cheetah.
Therefore, these cats probably
did not run as quickly as cats of today and they probably preferred quick,
sudden attacks to kill their prey. This model gives an idea of what this cat
would have looked like. The reconstruction, an "educated guess," is
based on the colour of modern day lions and cougar skin tones. To date we have
yet to find a frozen carcass of a scimitar cat, although many bones have been
Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius)
This specimen, 4
meters high, 3.6 meters long, with tusks 2.4 meters long, is an exact replica of one of the
largest mammoth skeletons ever found. The Mammoth steppe, rich in grasses and
sage that supported the grazing giants, was the name given to the dry, cold
tundra that existed during the Ice Age. The most recent North American mammoth
fossils are about 12,000 years old. A dwarf version of the woolly mammoths
survived on Wrangel Island, Siberia, until about 4,000 years ago. The woolly
mammoth was Beringia’s most common Ice Age animal. It was about the size of a
modern Asian elephant and weighed more than three tonnes. The reproduction
featured here is based on a complete skeleton found in Wisconsin.
Mammoths are among
the most important Ice Age animals in aboriginal stories. Accounts of attacks by
mammoths, as well as trapping and killing these enormous beasts, are told by all
Yukon First Nations.
American Short-faced Bear Diorama
giant short-faced bear has just chased two wolves away from their kill, a steppe
bison calf. As the bear eats, the wolves wait, hoping to get back to their prey.
The giant short-faced bear was the largest and perhaps the fiercest of the Ice
Age land carnivores of North America. It appears to have specialized in
scavenging, driving other predators away from their fresh kill.
This typical Ice
Age scene shows many of the animals that lived in the Yukon and Alaska during
the Ice Age. Press the buttons to highlight the individual species. Beringia
was truly a land of Ice Age monsters. The biggest grazers and their most fearsome
predators were far larger than any mammals that live in this area today. A
surprising variety of animals lived here in ancient times, although not all of
them inhabited Beringia at the same time. Beringia’s environment was extremely
productive, despite the northern location and harsh climate. Mammoths, steppe
bison and horses lived in the north throughout the Ice Age. Caribou evolved in
Beringia and have lived in both North America and Asia for nearly 2 million
This exhibit is a
recreation of a major archaeological site in the northern Yukon, the most
important site in North America. Evidence found in the caves in the 1970s and
80s indicates it was visited intermittently over the last 15,000 - 25,000 years.
The exhibit shows First Nation hunters butchering a caribou.