A new dinosaur excavation has just begun in the Tumbler Ridge area. What distinguishes this dig from the other excavations near Tumbler Ridge in recent years is that this appears to be an articulated, hopefully near-complete skeleton.
The 2002 discovery of a dinosaur bone-bed near Tumbler Ridge led to British Columbia?s first dinosaur dig. Over a period of two summers over three hundred bones were laboriously excavated, the oldest in western Canada. But while unique and scientifically very significant, and representing a number of dinosaurs and other creatures, these bones were not articulated. Subsequently discovered sites close to town have yielded a further 300 bones. But in 2007 further exploration yielded what appears to be the first evidence of articulated material, and preparations were made over the winter to begin this multi-year excavation project.
It is an interesting site, with bones eroding out of a bluff over an impressive distance of twenty metres. Initially some were found lying loose in the creek below. Palaeontologists Rich McCrea and Lisa Buckley, who made the discovery and are leading the dig on behalf of the Peace Region Palaeontology Research Centre and the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, are understandably cautious about ascribing too much sensationalism to the find. Yet they are clearly excited about sinking their teeth into these 75 million year old bones.
It has been a privilege to assist even briefly in the excavation. Actually, this is not quite as glamorous as it sounds, as it involved the removal of large amounts of overburden and the construction of trenches, while minimizing any impact on the surrounding environment. After a few hundred blows of a pick axe, countless shovels full of talus and rocks lifted, and hundreds of bucketfuls carried, we had made a dent in the overburden to the point where ?in a day or two? the rock layer immediately above the skeleton would be accessible to the palaeontologists. A distinct bonus is the proximity of the creek, allowing a welcome periodic cooling-off dip.
The best evidence so far suggests that hadrosaur (duck-billed dinosaur) material is present. Even at this preliminary stage, the potential importance of this project is evident for Tumbler Ridge, the Peace Region, and British Columbia. Further dispatches from the trenches will follow as this excavation progresses.