The rare discovery of mastodon bones is being described as the most significant prehistoric find of its kind in Nova Scotia in a generation.

A tibia belonging to what is believed to be a mastodon was unearthed at a gypsum quarry in Little Narrows last month, along with some smaller bones.

“We’re fairly confident that what we’re looking at, at least the longer bones, are likely limb bones,” says Kathy Ogden, assistant curator at the Nova Scotia Museum.

Lawrence MacNeil and Sandy MacLeod were working 50 feet underground at the gypsum quarry when they discovered the bones. They called the Department of Natural Resources, who handed them over to the Nova Scotia Museum.

“You don’t find something like that every day, so when I met up with the excavator operator, Sandy MacLeod, I showed it to him and he said ‘is that what I think it is?’” says MacNeil.

“Normally in mud you wouldn’t see that, or in clay, you wouldn’t see something so perfectly round. Right away I thought, well, obviously, it’s a bone of some kind.”

Ogden says the bones could date back anywhere from 10,000 to 80,000 years.

“It was pretty evident from the photos we received early on that we were dealing with something pretty significant, so it was very exciting,” says Ogden. “We’re extremely lucky to have these pieces.”

The last significant mastodon find in the province was the jaw of a juvenile mastodon in East Milford 22 years ago.

“When you can take a whole species that you only know from a handful of examples, and add another to that, then you’re really increasing your knowledge of the species in the province,” says Ogden.

Ogden says there are only about half a dozen records of mastodon findings in Nova Scotia, which include a few teeth and two partial skeletons found at a gypsum quarry near Milford.

She says the next step is to preserve the fossils so they don’t deteriorate, then more research will follow.

The bones will likely be on display on some point, but a date has yet to be set.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Amanda Debison