Student on Summer Internship Finds Triceratops Skull

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For paleontologists The Badlands of North and South Dakota have again reveled their richness with the recent discovery of a 65million year-old Triceratops Skull by California college student Harrison Duran, 23, an amateur fossil excavator on a summer internship.

Duran, along with Dr. Michael Kjelland, Assistant Professor of Biology at Mayville Sate University and co-founder of Fossil Excavators, a company speculating in paleontology study and digs, has had luck in the same region discovering a partial Triceratops last year, explained they only expected to find plant fossils.

“It’s almost like dinosaurs have a mythos about them. They’re seen as mythological beasts, so it’s amazing to actually discover one, to remember that they were living, breathing animals at one point,” Duran said, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Duran and Kjelland were working on dig in June, and discovered what they thought to be a piece of petrified wood, interesting enough, after further discovery the two realized they had stumbled on a partial Triceratops Skull in the Hell Creek Formation of Southwest North Dakota.

Credit: Dr. Michael Kjelland/Fossil Excavators

The Skull which the team named Alice, for the landowner, was found inverted with the left horn partially exposed above ground.

The team worked round the clock for a week, meticulously, carefully and with precision excavating the 65-million-year-old skull, ensuring it was preserved intact. After discovery and not knowing the extent of the discovery, as it wouldn’t be the first time a large nearly complete set of bones were uncovered in the region, the team cleaned the area around Alice.

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Soon a more complete picture of the discovery emerged, Alice, the partial Triceratops Skull was clearly defined. Preparing the skull for transport was completed by creating a platform under the skull, while it still lie in the same place it has been for 65 million years.

With a sturdy platform underneath, a process which included a bone stabilizer to prevent any of the discovery from deteriorating to dust during the move. The team used an accelerate to speed up the process and then encased in plaster, wrapped in foil and foam.

After discovery the excavation of Alice was completed in secrecy as grave robbers still exist especially on digs and finds which have the potential for fame, notoriety, and financial increase.

Fossil Excavator’s website indicated the team have begun the process of “preparing the skull for display and research.”

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So far, the team from Fossil Excavators have not experienced any of the interference and legal wrangling that the rightful owners of T-Rex Sue ended up facing. Granted it is early in the find and the value of Alice, a partial skull as opposed to T-Rex Sue, at 90% she was the most complete T-Rex ever unearthed.

Credit: Janet Walker/

T-Rex Sue, which has been the subject of books and documentaries as well as countless media coverage, was unearthed by the famed Black Hills Institute in South Dakota. The find was stunning and the excavation of a lifetime for Sue Hendrickson and Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute.

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This team, like Fossil Excavators, also moved the discovery to the lab to begin the cleaning process. For two years, they painstakingly labored to recreate a nearly complete structure. It was then, after the bones were cleaned and cared for that the Federal government seized T-Rex Sue.

Grave robbers of the federal kind.


Triceratops Images Credit: Dr. Michael Kjelland/Fossil Excavators

T-Rex Sue Images Credit: Janet Walker/

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