Monday, 7/26

Dug at the Clarence (hadrosaur) site today. Collected a few small bone fragments and some pieces of turtle shell then we committed to the hard physical work of removing the overburden above the fossil bone layer that seems to be consistent. Every bit we go “back” toward the nearby hill, we have more soils above the exposing fossils. It’s just plain hard work with pick axe & shovel to break up, knock down and shovel away mass quantities of rock & soil. Sure glad my (future) son-in-law, Ej, is here for this week to help out. Needed all the strength and encouragement of each other to keep at it while removing all this material.

It’s plenty hot again today with the local radio station predicting continued “extreme heat” warnings along with haze & smokey skies (from far away grass/forest fires) and, for Montana, higher than normal humidity. It’s hot.

Once a bunch of the over burden was removed we got on hands & knees to do the close up work of peeling away thin layers of soil & rock to look for any trace of fossil bone. We came across more turtle shell, which has been quite common at this dig. The fragment of shell was pretty big and then more showed, and then more… It appears to big a big turtle that is upside down (the bottom shell of a turtle is the plastron & top is the carapace). It looks like it may be 18” wide and we started to expose the side of shell which connects to the top – so the top carapace piece may also be here making it a large and complete turtle shell. Pretty cool. Here’s a photo showing the part of the turtle shell so far exposed (outlines in red to help show you the edges).

It’s in the same soils as Clarence the hadrosaur so it’s also of the cretaceous age, in the Hell Creek Formation of SE Montana. This turtle cruised around at the same time as dinosaurs. It’s approximately 66 million years old.

We also discovered some fossil plant impression in the sandy soil. It’s pretty large & keeps going back into the hillside. Not going to be able to preserve it since it is paper thin and in sand. Still very interesting to try to piece together what happened here – why there’s a large dinosaur buried here along with turtle shell and evidence of crocodile and fish parts. Seems to have a watery grave site for all involved.

Look forward to getting back to this dig site tomorrow to see if we can find the outline of the whole turtle in preparation for putting it in a plaster & burlap “field jacket” for safe transport out of the field. And looking forward to exploring this site to see if we find more of Clarence!