The first days preparation work went very well. Some crumbly bone was found in one corner of the jacket. Due to its poor state, all I could do was heavily glue it and use the heat from a desk lamp to dry it. The bone was in poor condition as it was from along the edge of the specimen where it was exposed and sticking out of the outcrop. Bone there is more exposed to rain, frost, and plant roots. Bone deeper in the hill is better protected from the elements and better preserved.
The glue we use is called Acryloid. It comes from the supplier as small plastic pellets which are dissolved in acetone. It can be mixed in different strengths as required, be it thin (for deep penetration of the bone), or thick (for glueing bigger pieces together). Use of the desk lamp as a heat source evaporates the acetone and speeds up the glues drying time. The glue is applied by plastic eyedropper. For fine gluing jobs I take a plastic eyedropper and cut the tip of it off far enough so I can attach the needle from a medical syringe (sharp point sanded off). I can then apply tiny amounts of glue where required.
Then I started to remove the dried and loose clay. Each piece was turned over with a small medical scalpel and examined for bone or bone impressions. Waste rock was put into a cardboard tray near the work area and emptied when full. After the first day, 4 trays were filled and emptied and this should represent a normal days work. If one is removing 20 trays of waste rock a day on a specimen this rare, fragile and scientifically valuable then they are going too fast and endangering the specimen! One has to go slowly and carefully.
I lifted one piece of rock and underneath it appeared to be several parallel rib sections. Still covered in sediment and dust, they were hard to see at first. They were glued and later cleaned off completely. I was surprised to see they were not ribs at all, but tiny teeth(!) from the left premaxilla (front end of upper jaws). Each tooth was about half the diameter of a pencil. Further work revealed the tip of the snout and more teeth from the left maxilla (main upper jaw bone), and the beginnings of the lower jaw, clamped tightly shut. By the end of the day a large section of the snout was showing. Everything was reglued and it has all weekend to dry out. So an exciting start!
More to come soon! All photos here and in the series are owned by Darren Tanke and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.