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“Huge” Dino Dig in NW Colorado

The bone near my left foot was a femur close to 5 ft. long

From August 17 to September 1 I had the privilege of being on a dinosaur dig on a private ranch in NW Colorado, not far from the aptly-named town of Dinosaur, with Dr. Carl Baugh of the Creation Evidence Museum (CEM) of Glen Rose, TX. With limited time, temperamental weather and many huge bones exposed, it took a major effort to excavate the site and get the field jackets safely back to Dr. B’s museum.

Diggers

Diggers

Dr. B and groups from the CEM have been digging up dinosaur bones at this site since 1995, but with the ranch up for sale the race was on to excavate what was believed to be a large femur exposed in 2012. A video crew was even supposed to film the process for a Christian cable channel, featuring Dr. B and Joe Taylor. Unfortunately, Joe became ill after only one day at the dig and had to leave for home. Nor, as it turned out, were the video folks able to come.

Me with Dr. B and Joe Taylor

Me with Dr. B and Joe Taylor

 

In the meantime, as more and more of the “femur” was exposed it began to look less and less like a femur and more like a scapula (shoulder blade) or ilium (part of the pelvic girdle). We ended up calling it “the mystery bone” (TMB). But before it could be taken out two large vertebrae with delicate “prcesses” sitting on top of it had to be removed. Then, beneath TMB two more large bones appeared, one of which was indeed a femur, the other a tibia. These were themselves underlain/interlaced with other smaller bones. Given the situation, all needed to be taken out!

Wall of bones at Dinosaur Nat'l Mon.

Wall of bones at Dinosaur Nat’l Mon.

With good weather (which one might expect in August) that might not have been too difficult; however, for the first week I was there it rained almost every day. Fortunately, it was usually in the evening, though one day it was so wet and rainy that there was only one thing to do: go to Vernal, visit the Fullbright Studio rock shop, eat lunch at the Golden Corral and drop by the “bone wall” at Dinosaur National Monument. Oh, yes, and stop at the BedRock Depot cafe in Dinosaur on the way back for some homemade ice cream. The owner Leona even carries my book, T is for T.Rex: Some of God’s Most Amazing Creatures from A to Z. As any dino digger knows, rain or shine you’ve got to take a day off like this every once and a while. In our case, the rain made it easy.

Once we resumed digging, lead-digger-in-Joe-Taylor’s-absence David Mikkelson, Jim “Sarge” Rankin, Ron Pew and Carson and Julie Hasting quickly had the vertebrae removed, which revealed an extension of TMB “draped” around another bone beneath. Clearly, it was soft and pliable when it assumed this bent-over position. One the other side of the femur/tibia where I was digging, we were finding other bones, including toe bones, a potential stegosaur spike and some smaller bones thay may have come from a juvenile–or even a baby–dinosaur. This would be significant if proven true, because the bones of sub-adult dinosaurs are very rare. One of the ladies on the dig even found a tooth!

TMB with yard/meter stick

TMB with yard/meter stick

A tooth!

A tooth!

After TMB was plastered, “turned” and removed, the femur and tibia came into full view. The

Dr. Baugh w/large sauropod bones

Dr. Baugh w/large sauropod bones

femur measured 4′ 8″ and clearly belonged to a sauropod-”kind” of dinosaur, such as a Camarosaurus, Brontosaurus or Diplodocus. While the TMB had some unusual characteristics, it increasingly began to look like we were excavating one side of the hind quarters of a large sauropod, which would increase TMB’s chances of being an ilium. Time will tell, but taken together the bones we dug up may represent a family unit from an adult “long neck” and some young offspring. Of course, the smaller bones could also be those of another species of dinosaur.

Ironically, the closer we got to excavating the big bones the worse the weather seemed to become. The rain fell hard, creating puddles around the bones, and the wind oftened threatened to blow our canopy down. However, now it was no longer an option to take the day off for a trip to Vernal. Time was short, and some people were having to leave. The remaining crew worked very hard to plaster-jacket the femur and tibia, as well as all the other assorted bones, not to mention to get the large jackets, each weighing hundreds of pounds, down the hill and into vehicles for transport. A special skid, built on-site by gourmet chef and all-around handyman Dale Muska, proved essential in this process–especially with all the mud and wet Morrison clay, which is slicker than…snail slime,–sticking to our boots and making a mess of an already difficult job.

The clouds are rolling in

The clouds are rolling in

Then, just as we finished excavating the main bone site, it was reported that part-ranch-owner Belinda had uncovered a potential skull a few yards away. It was another “must excavate.” With most of the diggers heading home and more major work to do, I decided to extend my stay a few more days. The only workers remaining at this point were Dr. B., Dale, Belinda’s son James and I. Fortunately, the weather took a turn for the better, providing clear skies and dry conditions, and we worked feverishly to remove what seemed like thousands of pounds of dirt, mud and hard rock surrounding the potentially valuable find. Without a generator-operated jack hammer that we traded off using we never would have made it.

On many days it was a muddy mess!

On many days it was a muddy mess!

Alas, I had to leave before the “skull” was jacketed and removed! However, I understand that three men remaining were able to accomplish the task. What kind of dinosaur skull was it? By the time I left it wasn’t uncovered enough to know for certain, but there were some intriguing signs of a frill, which means that it could be from a ceratopsian–in the Morrison! This would be a “first”–and upset the geological record–because ceratopsids are not supposed to have evolved until the Cretaceous tens of millions of years later. The final results will not be known until Dr. B. has the fossil fully cleaned and prepped, and will probably be announced by the Creation Evidence Museum (www.creationevidence.org.)

In any case, in spite of being a muddy, messy, grueling and difficult job, the dinosaur dig was a blast! The fellowship and comradery of working hard with other creationists in a starkly beautiful and remote area is something special and will make for lasting memories. However, beyond that, and whatever the “skull” turns out to be, in addition to the bones of fantastic beasts, we uncovered more evidence that confirms the biblical record of history: that the dinosaurs were created with all the other land animals on Day 6 and perished in Noah’s flood, God’s judgment on mankind, around 4,500 years ago.

Rainbow--God's promise never to flood the earth again

Rainbow–God’s promise never to flood the earth again

The fact that TMB was curved around another bone is strong proof for a rapid, watery burial. Swept to its death by the great Flood, as the sauropod’s body deteriorated in the turbulent waters, its bones (or at least some of them) became saturated and pliable, coming to rest piled on top of each other. Then, as tons of sediment covered them, the TMB was “molded” over the bone below. If the dinosaur’s burial hadn’t occured in this way and quickly, TMB would have broken when bent or simply have turned to dust over time, like all dead things. Truly, the fossil record is the record of God’s terrible pjudgment of sin and points to the Judgment to come. Like Noah’s ark,

 

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