One weekend in September,
my daughter and I had to opportunity to join a group of scientists from the Burke Natural History Museum to hunt for fossils
in the hot, arid desert of the Petrified Forest in Northeast Arizona. We
went way, way off the beaten path to do the hunting and excavations.
220-230 million years ago, the late Triassic period,
prior to the Jurassic (dinosaurs), all are continents were still just one, known as Pangea. During this time,
Arizona was located near the equator and the area was covered in swamps and lizards of all sizes, many crocodilian looking
and a lost nastier than the dinosaurs of the Jurassic period. We were looking for the lizard known as “phytosaur”
but anything else found would just be more for the Burke Natural History Museum. Now, these swamps are now just layers
and layers of sediment that built up over the 100s of millions of years. The layers of sediment have different colors
to them and it is from these colors one can tell where to find 220-230 million years ago.
It was an
amazing experience. We learned how to recognize fossilized bone and armored plates that had risen to the top of all
the sediments. Then, you look for the source of where these pieces came from and dig there, hoping to find more. My
daughter and I found a few great pieces and helped uncover part of a phytosaur skull. Of course, all pieces had to either
stay in the park or go out with the research group.
And, an article
from the Burke from 2014 at:
Here are some photos of us in the area we worked in. First, is a piece of fossilized
underbelly armor I found. It was so exciting finding out what it was. Elyse found one 4 times that size.
Then talking with one of the scientists, followed by Elyse& I working on uncovering some fossil which turned out
to be a piece of the back of a phytosaur skull, plus a close-up. The amazing strata of the sedimentary rock in
the back ground of our truck and showing how dry and barren the area is (versus millions of years ago it was a swamp
- climate change!). Following this are Elyse & I at the front end of a petrified tree. and, Elyse
posing with the funky rock formations.