Sunday, October 18, 2009

Archaeologists Don't Do Dinosaurs, but...

It is a pet peeve of mine to be asked about dinosaurs. I peeve about it more than I peeve about being asked about secret tunnels. I don't study dinosaurs; I would study secret tunnels if they existed on my sites... I don't blame the askers, I blame popular culture and the educational system. It is truly amazing how many people think that dinosaurs and people co-existed. But I digress.

The National Park Service has announced the discovery of preserved dinosaur tracks at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (located in Arizona and Utah). "The new Glen Canyon track locality may extend the ornithopod dinosaur record in North America back 20 to 25 million years earlier than previously documented." I am constantly amazed by what survives, and by how much there still is out there to discover.

I am also very pleased to see that there is such a thing as the "
Paleontological Resources Preservation Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-011)" (part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009) under the mandate of which the NPS will be putting together a strategy to inventory and monitor non-renewable paleontological resources. It's about time, imo.

Yes, fossils are cool. So are arrow heads, coins, and other shiny objects. But paleontological and archaeological resources are NON-RENEWABLE. If you rip something out of context, then all you are left with is the thing. All of the contextual information - dates, associations, etc. - is gone, and with it, just about everything that we could learn from them about the past. There is absolutely a place for knowledgeable avocational folks; there is no place for looters and other collectors interested in only the thing, context be damned. And unfortunately, more and more looting is motivated by financial gain, and not even the coolness of the things. If there is a hell, I hope the latter group finds themselves in a nice, uncomfy corner of it.

Random tangents:
  • Glen Canyon is over 1.2 million acres. Holy crap. (I've never been out west; my ideas about large spaces are defined by east coast standards.)
  • To find any National Park's website, take the first two letters from each of the first two words of the park name and jam them at the end of ... so, Glen Canyon is Women's Rights National Historic Park is If the name of the park is only one word, use the first four letters; so, Independence National Historic Park is
  • I lifted the above picture from the NPS press release. Original tag and credit line: "Ornithopod-like dinosaur trackway preserved in a block of Navajo Sandstone at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. NPS photo."


Bavardess said...

"It is truly amazing how many people think that dinosaurs and people co-existed."
Ah yes, that would be creationism at work, I believe. That or 'Jurassic Park'.

I confess, as a child living in Maryland, I always hoped to souvenir an arrowhead, but I never found any. I promise I know better now!

jo(e) said...

Oh, Bavardess said what I was going to say. You see enough clips of Jurassic Park, and pretty soon you forget that dinosaurs and people never co-existed.

Digger said...

Before Jurassic Park it was the Flintstones ... for real!

It's a possibility to find Mastodon in these parts (including almost-complete specimens)... though I haven't found any.