Digging for Dinosaurs – Excavate your own Prehistoric Animals

We often get asked by school children “what does it feel like when you find a fossil?”.  No matter how small and insignificant the find we still get a thrill out of finding fossils, especially when you have been working all day at a dig site, or wandering up and down some shoreline with a gale blowing into your face.

I recall one occasion when we were working with a team of palaeontologists excavating an assemblage of Hadrosaur remains that had been deposited in an ancient stream bed.  The carcases had accumulated and become heaped up onto each other, there were at least three adult Hadrosaurs within the matrix.  Although it was early days and no skull material had yet been found we were confident that they were the remains of  Edmontosaurus.  Before the bones were buried this pile of corpses had attracted a number of scavengers.  We found crocodilian teeth and a single tooth from a Troodontid.

All in all the site yielded a lot of palaeontological evidence, although I do remember one day when I toiled under the hot sun (we were digging in Alberta as part of a Royal Tyrrell museum team); for hours and hours and although stations either side of me were working on impressive fossils (tibia and fibia to be precise), where I had chosen to dig I could find nothing.  I even went back over the sediment I removed and sieved it again in case I had missed some tiny fragment.  After all my labour, late in the afternoon I uncovered my first fossil of the day – a piece of ossified tendon, tiny, but to me I was thrilled!

No matter whether it is the simplest brachiopod, bivalve, belemnites or an articulated Brachiosaur, finding something that lived millions of years ago, and exposing it to human eyes for the first time – it still is an enormous thrill.

When we work on designing items for young palaeontologists we try to create products and games that give them a chance to relive the experience of excavating their very own fossils.

One such product is the “Digging for Dinosaurs” range.  Models of prehistoric animal skeletons are set into a solid block of gypsum and then using the tools provided in the kit, children can have a go at excavating their own prehistoric animal.  If only the real thing was as much fun and came with the guarantee of finding a complete specimen in a single block.

Still, that is not the point, these kits are fun and give a real sense of achievement when all the digging is done.  There are a number of such kits available – the larger ones (house brick size) are called “Dig a Dino” animals in the series include Tyrannosaurus rex, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and a Pterosaur (Pteranodon).

Dinosaur crafts: Dinosaur Crafts for Kids

Dig-a- Dino Range Product Shot

Source: Everything Dinosaur (Kids Labs)

Here are a couple of tips for all the parents of budding palaeontologists:

1).  It is a good idea to put plenty of newspaper down (we use lots of newspaper to wrap specimens in real dig), but in this case it is best to do this as it saves a lot of cleaning up afterwards.

2).  A thump with a mallet is a good way to start the dig (get Dad to do this).

3).  Keep the gypsum bits away from your sink and certainly don’t flush bits away down the plughole, you might lose part of your model skeleton and in extreme cases block the drain.

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