Sunday April 26, 2021

Been a while since I last put up any new entry to this blog. I have recently finished up prep work on a specimen we found and excavated in the summer of 2018. A lot of interesting parts & pieces of a likely hadrosaur dinosaur. Glad I’m done with it; without any interns in house for the last 14 months it’s been pretty slow going. Here’s a photo of a few bones from the hip area; some are partial but several are the full pieces including the sacrum and one illium along with some loose vertebra.
I’ve moved on to another set of dinosaur fossils found on friend’s ranch property in Montana. This new specimen was found in 2018 and the excavation was begun by good friends from Italy who were with me on the dig site that year. I completed the work of discovering what all was there during the 2019 field season. When I left in August of 2019 there was fragmentary bone still in the ground, meaning that more bones from this single animal may still be present. All told, we field jacketed and brought out around 40 separate fossilized bones from what appears to be another hadrosaur in the 65-66 million year old range. We’re digging in a formation of exposed rocky badlands named the Hell Creek Formation, which is well know as a western US location for the group of dinosaurs who last graced the planet before a mass extinction event that did them all in (but for some bird relatives?).
Here’s what I’m excited to be digging in to now beginning the second discovery of what we found. The 1st comes when you find some clues eroding out of the ground then carefully expose the bones. The 2nd discovery happens back in the lab as we clean and prepare the fossils confirming what we’ve actually found.
Here’s the map made during the dig where we document & label the exact position of each piece found. The grid pattern equal one square foot for scale.
You can make out what appear to be both legs, some hip bones, about a dozen ribs, some sweet toes and assorted other remains including some fossilized muscle (rod-like ossified tendons).
We also found a smattering of other animal bits in & around these bones; things like fossilized turtle shell, a triceratops shed tooth, several crocodile scales (called scutes) and small bone fragments. I discovered the triceratops tooth early in the dig and thought maybe we were on a triceratops specimen. How cool that would be! But once I found a toe bone, gently cleaned it up and sent photos to a paleontologist friend, I was politely informed that the toe is most definitely hadrosaur. No triceratops, but very cool. It seems all the bones are likely from one animal since we’ve not identified any duplicate bones yet. (When 3 left legs are found it comes time to believe you’re on a “bone bed” of jumbled up animal remains; so far looks like no repeats so appears to all be from one specimen)
Here are some of the bones in their protective field jackets of plaster and burlap waiting to be cut open and worked on.
A bunch of bones eagerly awaiting their “2nd discovery.”
All 3 bones of a leg (femur, tibia & fibula) folded back on each other at the knee joint in one field jacket (guessing it weighs in at about 200+ lbs). This set of leg bones is on the map right next to each other and labeled 106-21, 22 & 24.
And here’s what I’ve started on; what seems to be a group of vertebrae that are really tightly encrusted in a very hard mineral. The rock is absolutely attached to the bone making it difficult to separate the surrounding rock matrix from fossilized bone. Have to be very careful not to use power tools to “carve” out the shape you think it should be when the rock doesn’t cleanly separate from the fossil surface.
1st two pieces of vertebrae
Bigger section holding verts 3, 4&5
After more cleaning
Status today; loose parts glued, struggling to find where rock stops & fossil edges start and about ready to turn it over and work on the other side (what was the top, facing “up” when it was found). If you zoom in on the map at the bottom you’ll see this set of bones labeled as 106-30.1-5.
More updates to follow as we get some pieces opened up and on the workbench.