Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 8: Movin' On Out

Yesterday was the last full day of the dig. The plan was to spend most of it cleaning up - that is, preparing everything that can be removed to be sent to the Museum, and covering everything that can't so it is protected from the elements until the team returns. They were hoping to further excavate the jaw found yesterday to see how much more of the skull was preserved.

As it turned out, a lot. Like, 95%. Including the very fragile braincase - which is essentially a natural cast of the inside of a skull that shows the shape and size of the brain. One that survives intact, like this one, is incredibly rare. As Dr. Bakker said while looking for it, "this is like doing brain surgery in a feed lot" - because what they were looking for is very fragile, and it was preserved in an area currently being used to graze thousands of cattle. Cattle that don't exactly watch where they step.

Dr. Bakker holds the Amy Dimetrodon's braincase - 100% intact and uncrushed. A very rare find.

A close-up of the braincase. This is what a Dimetrodon's brain looked like.

They also jacketed what couldn't be removed from the main Amy site with a new technique - foam jacketing. Using foam helps protect tiny, more fragile bones. It's also a lot lighter to carry than plaster. It looks like a lot more fun, too - like a game of prehistoric silly string.

Here, Dr. Bakker covers a portion of the Amy site with foam that will quickly harden and protect the bones on their journey back to Houston.

A close-up of the foam-jacketing process.

There is a lot at this site to protect:

Here you can see how many of the important discoveries were located on the main bone bed.

Since it was the last day for the whole team to be working, it seems safe to mention (without having to knock on wood) that even though the Red Beds is famous for its punishing conditions, the HMNS team was lucky enough to have weather like this the whole week:

David and Johnny excavate a site under the huge, blue Texas sky.

We were also surrounding with some pretty stunning wildlife - more on that soon, along with analysis of the week's finds from Dr. Bakker.