Cecil the turtle (why not?)

This large turtle fossil comes from late cretaceous sediments in Fallon County, Montana, dating it to be @66 million years old. I’d like to suppose it was a friend to the dinosaurs that were roaming around while it slowly searched for its next meal! We dug it last season (August) in the middle of our active dig full of fossilized bones from a hadrosaur specimen. We’ve collected about 80 bones so far from what appears to be this single animal. In the midst of these 80 bones we’ve come across several other fossilized bits and pieces of other animals. We’ve found fish scales, many small pieces of turtle shell, some woody plant fossils, some crocodile scutes (small bony plates, like fish scales, that cover a crocodile’s body) a triceratops shed tooth and two good sized turtles! Seems our hadrosaur (Clarence) died and was deposited in a wet environment.

This complete turtle specimen, species as yet unknown, is really cool! The top shell (called the carapace) shown here when still in place in the dig site, measures about 16” x 16”.

As found at the dig site in 2021

As always we cut open the plaster field jackets in the lab with the bottom side of the piece up. We start the clean up/preparation from the side we’ve never seen or touched, nor added any glues to, to preserve broken or loose pieces.

Here’s the big dude still in field jacket – snug as a bug
Turned it over and cut off the bottom of the plaster jacket to start preparation from the “bottom” up. This photo was taken before any surrounding rock matrix was removed.

And here are the results so far, after just a few hours of careful probing and separating the rock, dirt & sandstone from the fossil turtle surface. The bottom of the turtle (the plastron) is starting to take shape. I’m stoked – looks like it may be a (nearly) complete specimen!

The dark brown parts are fossilized turtle shell. May the skull be in here somewhere?!?