The second step in the Wyoming Dinosaur Center discovery process is digging and unearthing dinosaurs. The techniques used today have not changed since the late 1800s. Technologic advances have made mapping and record keeping at the site much easier, but the shovel and pickaxe can’t be beaten.
Shovels are used to remove the soft overburden and pickaxes are good for breaking through the hard sandstone layers. When the first bone is spotted, further work becomes much more tedious. Small hand tools like oyster knives, dental picks, and paint brushes to remove matrix from around the bone. With everything that we do, we are constantly watching for new bone fragments, using glue to make sure nothing is moved out of place prematurely. Once a bone is exposed enough to be removed, it is covered with a thick layer of plaster-soaked burlap strips. This creates what is known as a field jacket which allows the bone to be removed without fear of it falling apart while being removed from the site. After it is removed the bone is taken to the museum where it will be cataloged and placed in storage.
Each field season we regularly excavate at 5 or 6 dig sites, removing more than 100 bones every summer. WDC quarries have produced Allosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, and Apatosaurus bones. In addition to our dinosaur sites, the Warm Springs Ranch, also possess marine deposits full of Belemnites, Oysters, Clams, and even the occasional marine reptile. Staff have even found what could possibly be a coprolite site. That’s right, fossilized dinosaur poop!