Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grrr, baby, grrrrrr

So there seems to be a common misconception out there that archaeologists study dinosaurs.

While it is true that archaeologists study old things, and there are some really special ones who like to look at animal bones, the scientific field that actually studies dinosaurs is called paleontology. Think of it this way:Indiana Jones - archaeologist.
Ross Geller - paleontologist.

It is okay if you didn't know before now that there was a difference - I won't hold it against you, especially now that I have discovered the greatest irony of my new job. As an archaeologist.

I have to study dinosaurs.

Well, maybe not "study" them in the same way that I am trained in archaeology (i.e. taking things back to the lab/office to examine more closely and identify types, uses, etc. of human made artifacts). As I walk around in the field looking for the human made artifacts like stone tools and pots, I have to also keep my eyes open for dinosaur bones.

All fine and good - R and I are up for the challenge. Unfortunately, dinosaur bones sort of look a lot like...rocks. And unless you really know what you are looking at, it is sort of hard to tell the difference.

Luckily, our boss decided to take us out in the field to visit some of the paleontological excavations happening in our area this summer.

We drove way out in the middle of nowhere to an area with some really, really, really old geology. Like millions of years old. And we got to see this!

It is a triceratops! The bones on the left side of the picture are part of the sacrum (the very lowest part of your backbone) and the bones on the right are different vertebrae. The white stuff is called a "winter jacket" that the paleontologists put over the bones to protect them during the off season. A lot of the dino has already been removed and they are hoping to find a few more parts to it - like the head - by the time they finish the excavation in a couple of years.

We had to take a picture with it, just to prove that we really were there...
We also went to a museum in the northern part of the state to look at some of the complete skeletons that they have on display. I'll post those just as soon as I remember to get them off my work computer. I will also email them to the nephews of certain friends.

Its kind of cool seeing such huge bones. Especially because I study animal bones from archaeological sites. There are differences, but the shape and features of the bones are the same as on little bity tiny birds and lizards.

Pretty cool, huh?



4 comments:

gavingardner said...

just to gloat for a moment, i saw Harrison Ford two days ago here in Skagway, Alaska. I would like to say i just bumped into him, or he saught us out as fellow archaeologists, but no. We stalked him. we used deductive reasoning and determined where he would be eating dinner. Is that wrong?

Archaeology Ash said...

If you stalked Shea LeBeouf, we could no longer be friends.

jayceebee said...

How does anthropology, which I understand is, generally speaking, the study of humankind and his/her cultural development over the millenia, fit in with the study of archeology? I understand the three fields dovetail and are all part of the larger field which includes paleontology? (Convoluted sentence!)

Liam said...

I am so jealous that you saw a real Triceratops. I have one as a bath toy, but he is nowhere near as cool as the real thing. OK, I am supposed to be in bed-gotta go!