A smaller, modern version of the same sort of oven. (Photo: timquijano/CC BY 2.0)

Sometime around 400 A.D., in a place now called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, someone started making a meal. They dug a pit and lined it with rocks and willow branches. They nestled meat inside, then created an oven by closing the hole and building a fire on top. It would have looked something like this.

Whoever made that meal never ate it; the oven sat untouched for hundreds of years until Bob Dawe, an archeologist in southern Alberta, rediscovered it, about 25 years ago.

Since then, he’s been waiting to excavate the old earth oven, without messing with what’s inside.

Now, with the help of experts, a local elder (the oven was found in Blackfoot First Nation territory), and a crane, the oven is being taken to the Royal Alberta Museum. Lifted from the earth, this set-up is huge. The CBC says it’s size of a kitchen table and had to be lifted from the earth with a crane.

Dawe still doesn’t know what exactly is inside, but based on bones found at the site bison calf or a “wolflike animal” are possibilities. Once the oven is in a local museum, he will be able to analyze its contents to find out what meal was left behind—for what, no one knows.

“It may have been a prairie fire or perhaps a blizzard, or maybe some other party of people interceded,” Dawe told the CBC. “We’re not really sure. We’ll never know.”

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