Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The COVID-19 edition! I’m so very fortunate to have our fossil preparation workshop next to my home. While we in Indiana and folks all over the country and entire world are dealing with the constraints of isolating at home and social distancing I have access to the workshop just next door to home.

I had to stop having any tours, going to any schools or other groups to present and stopped having interns work so it’s been very quiet here for the last month or so. I was starting to get a bit bored working on exposing an unknown fossil from the surrounding very hard rock that was very adhered to the fossil. It has been a real difficult prep job; one where it’s been almost impossible to find the dividing lines between fossil and rock. After many different tricks and techniques tried I’m still struggling to find the “key” to unlocking this particular treasure.

I decided to give it a time out, pushed it aside and last night I carried a large, too heavy to lift field jacketed piece up and onto the work bench by myself. Of course I shouldn’t have but just plain wanted to! I think this piece is the sacrum (linked set of vertebrae that pass through the hips) from the same specimen I talked about above; a hadrosaur from the Hell Creek Formation in eastern Montana. I’m glad I did; good to take a break from struggling with the other piece and this does appear to be a sacrum.

Here are some photos from yesterday showing progress from whole jacketed piece to where I got after 3.5 hours of preparation last night. Pretty exciting to see what’s getting exposed.

Sooooo much more fun than staring at the big ol’ hunk of bone and rock and not being sure if I’m destroying the fossil or still haven’t gotten to the bone yet!

Field jacket upside down (what was up when fossils were found is facing down now). Best to start the preparation from what was the bottom of the bones.

Just cut the cap of burlap and plaster off to expose the aluminum foil and duct tape wrap.

Removed some of the loose matrix to expose the neural spines; looks like it is the sacrum.

After 3.5 hours of beginning prep work – more exposed.

Looks like the neural processes are showing very nicely at the top of the photos and transverse pieces below look good as well. It’s a big, heavy piece so will have challenges to keep it all together as we clean it up. The sacral vertebrae are typically fused together while the animal is alive to add strength to the joining of the hips to the the animals long, heavy tail.