Tuesday, July 5, 2011


There are few great places in the world to look for dinosaurs fossils. One of them is Mongolia. The history of dinosaur in Mongolia has to be old. People have been out in the gobi for a long time. In places, we come across Neolithic stone tools Bronze Age remnants, Turkic burial platforms, chinggis khanera pottery and coins, and the latest in discarded Chinese plastic kitchenware. In some areas dinosaur’s bones are obvious that you cannot them. 
Eighty million year old fossils can be so preserved, so white. So pristine that they look like any other bones like smashed sheep, camel, horse, and yak carcasses that litter in the desert floor. The locals must moderns era of dinosaur paleontology began in the 1920s when the American Museum of National history conducted a series of expedition to Mongolia and the others parts of Asia.  Termed the central Asiatic expeditions, the purpose the expedition was to find evidence of a “missing link” between humans and apes. That was not the main reason for expedition, the others includes: botany, zoology, cartography, archaeology, ecology etc. he 
Roy Chapmen Andrews led the expedition, Andrews was by most accounts a brilliant expedition leader and a vigorous self promoter. These desert expeditions were some of the largest and most expensive ever developed.  Fossils were found early on in the Central Asiatic Expedition, but the most famous locality was discovered in 1922, on the last day of the field season. Andrews notes that they were lost on an old caravan road on their way to back to Beijing. While Andrews went to get direction at small garrison, Walter Granger, second in charge and chief paleontologist, accompanied by expedition photographer William Schackelford, went the other direction to look a few small hills of red rock.  When they approached, a vast bright red cliff, invisible to the north, lay exposed before them. Immediately fossils were found. Because of the late date, they only collected a few specimens, and the caravan continued toward Beijing. This locality became popularly known as the Flaming Cliffs, because of the bright orange color of the rocks and the “ way they burned deeply in the sun in the afternoon”. The Mongolian name for areas is Bayanzag, which is characteristic The Mongol fashion a simple descriptor is meaning” Many zag trees”. The fossils that were found included a small skull of a Dinosaur and remains of a single egg- thought at the time to be that of a bird. The next year, in 1923, the expedition headed straight for Bayan Zag. It was here that they founf fist unequivocal dinosaur nests. During the 1929 season alone they collected three of most important theroped dinosaur ever discovered- Oviraptor, veliraptor and Saurornitoides. These were reported on in seminal paper simply titled “three new Theropoda, Protoceratops zone, central Mongolia”. In additional to describing those animals, this paper spun the account how the Ovirator died while raiding the nest of plant eater Potoceraptos. Ovirator specimen had been found lying on top of dinosaur nest. At the nest was thought to be the nest of small plant eater Protoceratops.  It was not until our own expedition, 70 years; later that conclusive roof was found that these were not eggs of a Proctoceratops being   devoured by a marauding Ovirator.  Instead it is the nest of Oviratoritself, which died while sitting atop; probably brooding it’s yet to be hatched eggs just like modern birds. By end of the 1920s a changing political climate caused cessation of AMNH activities in Mongolia until our involvement began anew in 1990. The storm of political purges of the 1930s ensured that no outside, particularly American scientists, would be allowed to explore and map Mongolia. It was not until after WW2 that large scale paleontology expedition were reinitiated in Mongolia. This time is was the Soviets, using a variety of military equipment, were able to extend operations far outside of the these areas, in the Nemegt Basin they found same of the greatest dinosaur localities ever discovered. Places with names like Altan Ulaa and Khermen Tsav, produced spectacular dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus relative Tarbosaurus, the armored (armourad)Talarurus, ans the duck- billed Saurolophus.  
Following the Russians were the Poles. Who conducted a series of expeditions through the 1960s and 1970s called the “Polish-Mongolian expeditions” to be continued...

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