Construction of the new Public Safety building in Thornton, Colorado has come to a screeching halt. On Friday, construction workers, while digging, uncovered the skeleton and skull of a rare triceratops.
This is one of three different triceratops skulls that have been found in the Front Range of Colorado. According to curator of dinosaurs,Joe Sertich, of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, it has likely been buried there for the last 66 million years.
Sertich said that his heart was racing at the discovery. When they uncovered the fossil and discovered that it was a triceratops horn and not a hip or leg bone, the excitement at the site grew.
The museum, in a statement, the crew has uncovered the shoulder blade and a horn of the triceratops so far. There is no word how much of the skeleton is in tact or what else may be uncovered at the site as the dig continues.
A popular dinosaur with filmmakers, the Triceratops has two large horns, one over each eye, and a smaller horn on the nose. In films, the triceratops is often the arch enemy of the scary tyrannosaurus rex. However, a friendlier version of the beast, Cera, was a main character in the animated series of films, Land Before Time by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
Many of the fossils that are found in the Denver area are from about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, from the Ice Age. They typically belong to camels, mammoths and other Ice Age creatures. According to Sertich, knowing that this is a dinosaur find, he is ecstatic and over the moon.
On July 31 the ground was broken by construction crews for the new Fire and Police Substation. The site at Quebec and East 132nd Ave is a bit different than most other construction locations. Most of the Denver area is covered by shopping malls, parking lots, and houses. Digging deep into the rock layers is not typical. Sertich stated that crews were using a skid-steer loader to move ground when an object stopped them. One of the crew realized that the object may be a fossil, and they stopped work to investigate closer.
Many times construction crews will plow fossils up without even knowing. According to Sertich, they were real lucky that one of the workers recognized the object as a possible fossil. Then the museum got the call to come out and take a look. Now they are salvaging the site and collecting the fossils there.
The area has been stabilized by scientists from the museum, making it safe for them to start extracting the found fossils and look for any other bones. The city of Thornton is providing the site security, and it is away from the street, not visible to the public.
By Cletus Dillwood
Photo Courtesy City of Thornton