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How the T rex "Lee" was found


Significant discovery, history has shown time and again, sometimes springs from the unlikeliest circumstances.

Such was the case for Jean-Pierre Cavigelli in the mid-2000s at a dig site near Lusk in Niobrara County.

Cavigelli, a former Laramie resident and employee in the University of Wyoming's geology department, was leading a "pay to dig" excursion on a private ranch through his current employer, Casper College’s Tate Geological Museum.

He didn't know his scientific equivalent of a "no-hitter," a baseball metaphor he used to describe the career milestone, awaited as he took a break from the dig and hiked out into the field, looking for an "improvised local men’s room."

In short, nature called.

The fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex, estimated to be 65-67 million years old, answered.

"I had to go ... and so I chose downwind, which is always a good direction to go," Cavigelli said. "On the way to the nearest sagebrush, I stumbled onto these bones."
A closer inspection of the dinosaur site revealed three vertebrae encased in a chunk of hard rock that later measured 18 feet long and 8 feet wide.

Though he suspected he’d stumbled upon a "big dinosaur," he left
the site and earmarked it for return study.

Fast forward to 2010.

Cavigelli, colleagues and "pay to dig" participants spent three days digging and chipping away at the site, looking for bones and clues.

Midway through the second day, they suspected what lay beneath might be a T. rex.

By the end of the third, they were certain it was.

"We knew we had something pretty good," Cavigelli said. "... We exposed enough bones along the edge of the rock to be able to tell it was a T. rex."