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University of Alberta finds fossils forgotten for 100 years


The chief technician of the university’s dinosaur research program, Clive Coy, says the paleontology department took advantage of the pandemic to get through what it had accumulated over time.

This is how the researcher ended up with, in his hands, a box that had been waiting until then in a storage space outside the campus.

It could be seen that the box had been in storage a long time ago. There was a good layer of dust on it, mold stains and dead bugs, he says.

Inside, he discovered about twenty small bundles, some the size of an apple, others as big as a melon, formed by several layers of newspaper and closed with a string.

Pieces of history

Some still have their original labels, and the inscriptions are clearly visible.

This is how Clive Coy discovered that they are fossils collected during an expedition in 1920 and 1921 in what has since become Dinosaur Provincial Park.

This expedition was led by the very first paleontologist at the University of Alberta, George Sternberg.

This box was a big surprise to us because it was like new, in the sense that no one has looked at it for 100 years. We were surprised that it had never been opened.

A quote from Clive Coy, University of Alberta

Fortunately, it looks like the mice weren’t attracted to newsprint., jokes the paleontologist. He believes the box was stored where it was found in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

According to Clive Coy, most of these little packages have historical rather than scientific value. They bear witness to the way we worked at the time and tell the story of the beginnings of paleontology at the University.

Future discovery?

There is one package that is very intriguing. It is the one on which it is written “pieces of three turtle skulls”, he adds. It is the only one he plans to open, because turtle fossils are still rare today.

An old label on a package showing pieces of three turtle skulls.

This package which would contain fossils of turtles, according to its label, intrigues Clive Coy, who intends to open it.

Photo: University of Alberta / Clive Coy

The researcher believes they are hard-shelled water turtles dating from between 75 and 79 million years ago.

These 100-year-forgotten pieces of skull, he said, could further advance science and provide new information to our knowledge from the Cretaceous period in Alberta.

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