Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 6: The Ground Movers

Today, the team moved a lot of ground. Starting with that 350-pound behemoth plaster jacket. After reinforcing it yesterday, they tackled this enormous project first thing.

Once it was flipped - one of several dramatic processes we've chronicled on video we'll post tomorrow - they shaved excess dirt off the now-top of the jacket (originally, the bottom) to try and lighten the load and then covered it with wet newspapers and plaster-soaked burlap to "cap" it.

UPDATE: In this video, the team flips a 350 - 500 pound plaster jacket that contains multiple Dimetrodon fin spines and vertebra, still in place as they were buried. It will be transported back to the Museum for further study.

They also introduced Amy, the namesake and original discoverer of our Dimetrodon site, to the glory her find had turned out this week.
The ranch-owner, Bill Whitley, looks on from the far left as Kathy and Chris show Amy, far right, her site. Check back for an interview with Amy about what it feels like to have such a significant find named after you.

Before the day was out, they'd uncovered something even grander - a humerus in pristine condition AND a huge Dimetrodon fang with a full root. This is further evidence that the skull of this animal is likely somewhere in the Amy site, as only Dimetrodon teeth lost after death have roots still attached.

Dimetrodon humerus uncovered today - at 18 cm, it's "very robust" for the species, according to Dr. Bakker.

Very large, fully rooted Dimetrodon tooth found in the Aimee site. This is further evidence that the team may find a jaw or skull further into the site.

They also found evidence that this layer might extend under this entire hillside - Shirley uncovered the end of a fin spine about 5 feet away that extends into the hill towards the site where the team is digging. As Kat and Kathleen dig into the right side of the site, they're finding that the soil is turning to caliche, rather than the blocky clay that the bones are coming out of. This indicates that they have either come to the end of the bone bed on that side, or, that the layer is tipping downward.

The Ground Movers in action - in this image, you can see the entire chunk of hillside that has been carved away to reveal the Amy site, along the bottom.

By the end of the day, this site had yielded 4 more big vertebrae; 3 new neural spines; the giant humerus and two new teeth. And the fin spines just keep going into the hillside. Can't wait to see what comes out tomorrow.

The excavated Amy site, about four times larger than it was when first uncovered on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Chris and Kat talk about the Amy site excavation and what they've found so far, as well as what they hope to find in the next few days

Tarrington and Jacob also came back today to work with the team - and found five new possible sites in the area surrounding the main dig area. They worked the K2 site, and found "K2 Jr." at the very bottom of this slope - a site with several Seymouria vertebrae and anrthropod footprints in the surrounding sandstone.

Tarrington holds a tiny tooth he found at the K2 site today.

Jacob holds a Seymouria vertebra at the new "K2 Jr." site.

It turned out to be a day of new discoveries for everyone - just before we packed up, the ranch-owner came over with a huge Dimetrodon toe bone, found in a nearby creekbed.

After the plaster cap dried in the sun all day, the team called in a front-end loader to assist in getting this massive bundle up a very steep hill. As Dave said, it "felt kind of like getting King Kong into the boat."