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Royal Tyrrell Museum Field Update, July, 1997 (2nd half)
We continue to have mostly good, hot, sunny weather here in Alberta,
Canada, which allows us to carry out fieldwork activities unhindered. We've
had several +37 degrees C (about 100+ degrees F) days. This posting has good
news especially for you tyrannosaur fans out there. Thanks to those who
acknowledged getting the last field update posting. The latest in a
seemingly continuous rash of internet problems has been resolved [until next
time :( ]. Also a personal thankyou for those who included words of
encouragement and thanks- I'm gratified to see so many of you find these
postings of a personal and professional interest. I'm always interested in
hearing from you and how you would like to see this "column" improved.
1. DINOSAUR PROVINCIAL PARK (DPP) GORGOSAURUS QUARRY. Some great news-
There is a skull!! Somewhat disarticulated, but confined to a small area. 3
jaws with teeth (2 upper, one lower), braincase, nasals, jugals and other
cranial elements have been found so far. Phil Currie thinks the skull could
be as much as 80% complete. Some of the teeth appear to have been broken
prior to, or at time of death. I will see this quarry for the first time in
about 5-6 days, and will take some pictures for posting on Jeff Poling's
homepage (www.dinosauria.com) later on this summer.
2. DPP CENTROSAURUS Bonebed (BB) 138. Quarrying continues as per usual.
Nothing major to report here. They still brag about jumping in the creek on
hot days while we in BB 41a work our butts off.
3. DPP CENTROSAURUS Bonebed 41a. Quarrying continues; no jumping in the
creek for us :). Much of the bone is unfortunately poor in quality. The rock
(clay) is quite damp and broken up by numerous small cracks. I think the
bone used to be well preserved, but the water flowing thru the cracks in the
layers of clay over many years has, in a way, "defossilized" the bone; ie.
leaching out the minerals and salts that previously held the fossilized bone
together. The bone looks good at first, but after it dries out, if you touch
it the wrong way it literally "crumbles into dust". The cranial material is
better preserved- we have found four nice lower jaws (dentaries). Most of
the bones preserved in the site are from adult-sized animals. This is a mass
4. HILDA, ALBERTA EXPEDITION.
4a. CENTROSAURUS bonebed excavation. Many smaller pieces are being found at
the top of the fossil layer and they get bigger in size as one digs deeper.
I should have more to report in my next posting on the particulars of this
site. 14 sites rich in CENTROSAURUS remains have been documented there so
far, some are most probably from the same bonebed layer and thus spread out
over a long distance laterally.
4b. Ankylosaur quarry. This continues to frustrate the team working there.
I gather only a few new scutes (armor) have been found. Most troublesome is
the fact that the ironstone rock and bone are the same color/texture, so
differentiation between the two on site is most difficult. Much fruitless
exploratory digging has been conducted in an effort to figure out which way
the specimen is laying.
4c. Prospecting. The badlands on the west side of the South Saskatchewan
River at Hilda has long intrigued us, but we were not allowed to go there
because that land and a lot of the prairie above is a military firing range.
The British do not have enough land to hold wargames/gunnery training, so
they ship their boys overseas here to carry out tank maneuvers, infantry
drills, heavy artillery practice, etc. The Hilda crew, who are camped at
prairie level on the east side of the river have been entertained by
nocturnal fireworks from barrages of heavy artillery fire, tanks, parachute
flares and balls of colorful tracer fire arching into the night sky. Most
impressive I'm told. When the Brits are not blowing things up, our Hilda
team is permitted to explore the badlands there. An unspecified bonebed has
been located, and Phil Currie has been away the past few days looking there
too. I've not heard how he has made out. Hopefully he won't step on an
errant landmine or artillery shell....
5. PERSONAL FINDS. During the month of July, we have occasionally taken new
field experience participants at Bonebed 41a to the nearby bonebed 60 (a
multigeneric bonebed) for lunch and a look around. We had already been there
at least 6 times and with 15-20 different people. So, you'd think July 22
would be no different from any other day we were there and that we would
have found all there is to find in that region. Well, think again. I took a
new group there on that day. We went to the usual spot to have lunch, but
had to move to another area a short distance away on account of a protective
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) female with 2 downy young being there.
We sat down, had lunch. Later, I stood up to stretch my legs, turned around
and there in white sandstone on the hillside directly behind us were 3
gorgeous golden-brown tyrannosaur teeth all lined in a row! Its not every
day you'll see me jumping up and down for joy, but this was one for sure!!
One tooth was quite large, about 3.5 inches (9 cm) long, and flanked on
either side by two smaller teeth each about 1.25 inches (3 cm). The larger
tooth had the tip and part of one side broken away, but these loose pieces
were found down the shallow slope close by. This find was quite exciting as
you don't just find multiple tyrannosaur teeth lined in a row, UNLESS they
are in a jawbone. No such bone was visible, so we knew that the jaw had to
be in pristine condition. Yesterday I dug the hill back a bit and uncovered
more teeth (7 total so far, one broken during the lifetime of the animal)
and the ventral (lower) edge of a splendidly preserved right maxilla (upper
jawbone) about 55 cm (21.5 inches) long! Yowzers! The bone is in a nice firm
sandstone which seperates cleanly from the bone. Of course all this happens
they day before I have to go home on days off, so I have 4 days here in
Drumheller to contemplate this jaw awaiting my return and collection. I'll
take pictures hopefully for inclusion to J. Poling's homepage. There is
always the possibility of a skull being in there, but as the jaw is embedded
in sandstone, the Cretaceous waters that were flowing and depositing this
sand were fairly fast-flowing making the chance of an articulated skull
being there less likely. But we can always hope. This whole episode just
goes to show the luck involved in finding important fossils:
a. I had been in that small area about 6 times previously and missed it.
b. Several other collegues had been there a few times and missed it too.
c. 15 other field participants had scrambled over this particular hill
numerous times and also missed it.
This just goes to show how easy it is to miss important specimens, even
with experienced staff being there and that even though an area has been
gone over, the chances of more fossil material still turning up is good.
6. THE MONEY BOOT. What's this you say? In 1989, volunteer Mike Getty found
an unusual "specimen" in the the middle of DPP badlands. Now a summer staff
memeber, he relocated it this year. A badly rotted, mans rubber boot
containing many pennies and nickels, dating up to the mid 1970's. I have not
seen this, but some nickels were the WWII "V for Victory" type. Who put this
there? Why? We cannot even begin to answer these perplexing questions.
Weird.... Only one boot was found, where's the other?? There is some
specualtion that the other boot contains paper money and may turn up someday.
7. ON THE "HEAD-HUNTING" OF DINOSAURS. Kuban and Olshevsky had debated on
the "head-hunting" of dinosaur skeletons (the removal of the skull) and
leaving the rest to rot) earlier and I added my comments later on. Now I add
more here. Previously I had defended the earlier fieldworkers activities,
but have just come across a copy of a disturbing letter dated Oct. 2, 1922
from E.S. Riggs to O.C. Farrington of the Field Museum in Chicago, an
excerpt of which is included here:
"In general, this is a region [he is talking about DPP] rich in fossils.
Isolated bones were abundant. But perhaps 99% of the skeletons were
disarticulated and scattered. The activity of collectors during the past 12
years had searched out and excavated the more desirable specimens.
Everywhere our party encountered excavations and in many of them specimens
had been uncovered and left falling to pieces in place. In turn our
collectors traced out many specimens that were not worth taking."
Reading between the lines could imply head-hunting had been carried out in
8. DRUMHELLER TYRANNOSAUR (cf. ALBERTOSAURUS) QUARRY. This quarry, headed
by Clive Coy is going well. The skeleton is mostly disarticulated. An
articulated tail is going back into the hill. A dentary with teeth, and
possibly a second have been seen. A tibia and the distal third of an
articulated metatarsus have been collected. Eroded pedal (foot) phalanges
were found on the surface. It should take another two weeks to finish.
9. QUARRY SEARCHES IN DPP CONTINUE. I am trying to relocate some of the
Chicago Field Museum quarries from 1922. This expedition was well documented
by photographs. Some sites are identified as being "close" to the Quarry 75
that I recently relocated, but what distance was considered "close" in 1922?
200 feet? 1/2 mile?, 2 miles? We are now forced to walk in ever increasing
spirals away from Quarry 75, armed only with photocopies of photographs from
the 1922 quarries. #1 on our list is a KRITOSAURUS skull and scattered
skeleton which ended up in Italy in the late 1950's and was described in
1960 by Vittorio Vialli "Uno Scheletro di Dinosauro del Museo Civico di
Storia Naturale di Milano (Kritosaurus notabilis Lambe)) Osservanzioni
preliminari." Atti Soc. Italiana di Sci. Nat. Mus. Civico di Storia Naturale
Milano, 99:169-185. I would appreciate any information on this particular
specimen, particularly photos or status report of the specimen as it appears
today. Is it on display? If so where?
That is it. Your correspondent,
Technician I, Dinosaur Research Program
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Box 7500
Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. T0J 0Y0
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