Going to Tristan the T. rex’s dig site

I guess it was kinda hard to miss that the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin is getting a real Tyrannosaurus rex. I’ll have much to say about the beast here on dinosaurpalaeo over the course of the next few years. For now, I can show you a few photos and report on the trip to the site it was dug out. The Tyrannosaurus skeleton was named Tristan by its owner, Danish businessman Niels Nielsen, after his son. I’ll add some of the press photos of it below, but I won’t rehash what you’ve read in the press already. There’s tons more of photos on my hard drive, but anything that hasn’t been approved already by the PR people I would have to run by them, and they are quite busy enough already at this time. Patience, thus – you’ll see plenty of Tristan soon. maxilla

Medial view of the right maxilla. Photo: Niels Nielsen

all bones

Bones of Tristan during preparation. Photo: Niels Nielsen

all bones

Skull bones of Tristan during preparation. Photo: Niels Nielsen

As you can see the bones are jet black! Quite a sight, if you’re used to the normally brown bones of the Hell Creek. The preservation is mostly exquisite, with tiny details well preserved. Some bones, however, have been massively squashed, and show a glassy sheen, almost like coalified fossil wood. A weird preservation tale to investigate 🙂 So now the museum sent a small team to check out the Tristan dig site in the south-western corner of Montana. The team consisted of the head of exhibition design Uwe Moldrzyk, his coworker Benedikt Esch, preprator Marten Schöle, me, and (because we wanted more palaeo knowledge and someone who had previous field experience in Montana) masters student Franziska Sattler. And a TV team – rbb is covering our Tristan work over the next three years. They sent two camera guy and and editor. And Uwe and Benedikt brought their children, as their holiday planning had already been made when the trip was planned. So it ended up being quite a large group. And Niels showed up with his son Tristan, and some friends, and so we were quite a gang inspecting the Montana badlands 🙂 Montana looked very much like I remembered and expected it. We stayed in a hotel in Belle Fourche, though, which is in South Dakota. Not much difference, however, as we were north of the Black Hills. Belle_Fourche Belle_Fourche Downtown Belle Fourche, SD. Grain elevator, railroad crossing, gas station, the works. From here we drove north and slightly west to get to the Tristan site. With a lot of tops so that the TV folks could re-arrange their Gopros and film anything and everything of significance (or no significance). TV-Crew Most of the drive was on gravel roads, which were in good order – except the bit the grader had just done work on. Go figure…… The landscape there is archetypical Montana: wide open, occasionally hills with forests or cliffs, some badlands, and lots of wildlife. Occasional farms, some with abandoned houses and some still lived in, dot the grassland. Surprisingly, the grass was still very green; apparently, the area has had a very wet spring. There were plenty of small water pools around, too, which I noticed drying out slowly over the course of our stay.gas station landscape panorama click the panorama for a bigger view. I made it with hugin, still the best freeware for panoramas out there. pronghorn

Pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) -the only North American antelopes. We saw groups of up to 12 adult animals, with plenty of young.

pronghorns raptor

Fairly large raptors and vultures were all over.


This deer crossed the road right in front of us, then stood still to watch us and chew.

flower bird insect The landscape at the Tristan site itself proved to be a fairly typical sample again: some badlands, some hills, flowers, animals – boy do I hate gnats! I also saw some feces that may have been from a mountain lion or wolf (I was told the latter is unlikely), or a very huge coyote. Tristan site This is a view of the Tristan site. You can see our fearless TV team in the hole Tristan came from. Tristan siteAround them plenty of piles of removed overburden. Obviously, the two camera men were all over….. when they were not pestering us with the eternal questions about how we felt.
But back to the landscape now… Tristan site Tristan site All around the site you can find sandstones weathering out and forming small “tables” – sadly, we were short a cooler and an experience barkeeper 😉 Most sandstones are very localized, but some, a bit higher up than the Tristan layer at the bottom of the valley, are fairly extensive. Also extensive are the iron concretions.In some layers they seem to make up almost 40% of the area, and weather out as a rust-coloured layer. They often form around plant roots, and can be found in large horizons that show the ancient vegetations’ spread very well. Tristan site iron concretions Tristan site I’ll end this with a cute attack. More soon – now I need to board my flight home. Tristan site


About Heinrich Mallison

I'm a dinosaur biomech guy
This entry was posted in Aves, Botany, Dinosauria, historical buildings etc., insects, landscapes, Mammal pic, Maniraptora, non-palaeo, photography, Theropoda, Travels, Tristan, Tyrannosauridae, Tyrannosaurus. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Going to Tristan the T. rex’s dig site

  1. Steve Bodi says:

    Wonderful for your museum. It’s easy to forget when you work around fossils how truly rare and amazing it all is. Real T-rex bone to prepare and display and learn from in your “house,” your museum. Very cool.

  2. Pingback: PaleoNews #17 | An Odyssey of Time

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