November 14, 2009 | Mark | Comments 13

Return to Raptor Mountain

Mark on the Julieraptor discovery siteWell it’s more of a cliff than a mountain, and more of a small dip in the prairie, but that’s where the ‘Julieraptor’ was found and there may well be more to find. Thanks to the landowners I am heading back to Montana in 2010 to excavate the hill where ‘Julieraptor’ was found. This is the small, undescribed maniraptoran dinosaur (commonly referred to as ‘raptors’; entirely wrong but go kick Universal Studios) that was stolen but is now safely prepared and in the process of being scientifically described.

Problem is there is a portion of the front of the skull missing, so we need to properly excavate the site for the first time since 2002 and see what else we can add to the skeleton. Plus we may find other dinosaurs, possibly new to science, or we’ll find nothing at all. That is exploration! But there is a good chance we shall find not only extra pieces of Julieraptor but other fossils of Cretaceous life including fish, crocodiles, mammals and perhaps the rare but vicious raptor eating turtles that haunt that area of Montana ; )  The geology and depositional setting (‘taphonomy’) of the Julieraptor site will also be surveyed and add valuable information to this fascinating specimen.

I am in discussion with a major museum to help run a volunteer program on the 2 week dig, so get in touch if you have enough money to head over there with me and join in for a significantly interesting time.

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  1. Hi, Mark, I have just read your account of how you came to be where you are in 2009 in the “West Australian” Weekend magazine. Absolutely fascinating stuff!! Am an Amateur Anthropologist/ Archaeologist, alsways wanted to do a “dig”. Wondering how much in $’s is involved in being a Volunteer at the Julieraptor site?Be great to hear, Valerie

  2. Same question Mark. I live in W.A. and read your story in the West on the weekend.

    When will the trip be?
    What does it cost?

  3. Hi Mark,

    I’m not sure thay you’ll receive this, but it’s worth a try…wish that I could join you at the Julieraptor site
    in Montana next summer. Have a VERY, VERY successful dig!
    All my best wishes, Jim in New York (your favorite Editor)

  4. Hi Jim!
    For anyone wondering, this is Dr.J.Birx, prolific author and indeed, my favorite editor.
    See the Encyclopedia of Anthropology and Encyclopedia of Time at amongst many other examples of Jim’s work.

  5. Hi Everyone
    Thanks for your enquiries. For everyone interested in the ‘Return to Raptor Mountain’ dig, here are the basics, but planning is at an early stage so I will present an information night (and lecture on Julieraptor) in January with more details:

    What: Dinosaur fossil exploration and excavation on private land at the Julieraptor discovery site; north of Malta, Montana USA.
    1- Find and Recover more skeletal elements of the dinosaur fossil known as ‘Julieraptor’.
    The Julieraptor specimen is largely complete including the braincase and significant parts of the rear of skull, but the front of the skull has not yet been recovered. If found this would add important information to describing the fossil and it’s likely important place in the hierarchy of bird-like dinosaurs in North America. Sieving of the slopes around the discovery site may yield the missing pieces, as will widening of the excavation around where the main body parts were extracted rather rapidly in 2006.
    2 – Find and recover associated fossils such as other dinosaurs, reptiles and mammals.
    During the preparation of Julieraptor several pieces of a other bird-like dinosaurs called Oviraptors were tentatively identified, suggesting the site is highly prospective for finding other examples of vertebrate life from the same habitat. Significantly this also suggests that the Julieraptor site is a rare type of deposit that has captured and preserved scientifically valuable small, hollow-boned dinosaurs, with associated high potential for those specimens to be new to science.
    3 – Map and survey the site for geology, palynolgy, botanical and other environmental data.
    Any associated data of the site will provide information to help reconstruct the taphonomy (‘death/burial sequence’) of Julieraptor and provide knowledge of it’s habitat and the envionment of that part of the world during the Cretaceous period.
    4- To provide an earth science experience of high scientific and personal value to volunteers and associated participants.
    All participants are guaranteed to find and work on some dinosaur bone, hang out with knowledgeable and successful dinosaur hunters and scientists, and have a high experience of earth science exploration and learning.
    Optional is that you find a dinosaur new to science.

    Where: The ‘Return to Raptor Mountain’ dig is based out of the town Malta in Montana USA, reached by flying to the town of Billings, Montana USA. The shortest route is via Sydney or Brisbane to LAX, then connect to Billings via Salt Lake City or Denver. You are responsible for your own travel arrangements, so may fit it in with other travel plans, going around the world or whatever. It’s up to you, but we meet in Billings Montana from where we’ll take over running you up to Malta and out to the digsite, teaching you what and how of dinosaur hunting and excavating. There we stay in a motel/hotel during the dig week (no camping!). If I have enough interest I will investigate a bulk seating deal with a travel agent to decrease costs and optimise timing.

    When: Aiming for either the last 2 weeks of July and/or first 2 weeks of August. Will be more specific over next few months with firm dates by end of January 2010.

    Cost: For the weeks participation and tutelage cost is going to be about US$1250. This is ex-Billings Montana USA and will include travel from Billings to Malta and to the site and back each day, tools, lunches and amazing times with amazing people. All other costs such as travel (flights), accommodation and breakfast/dinner is at own expense. In my experience it will cost you about $800 for the internal USA flights return LAX – BIL (Billings Montana) on top of your return flight to LA. Accommodation will run about $100 night for the week, roughly, and food outside of dig- day lunches is up to you,

    For anyone who is interested in joining keep in touch and I will email you re the information/lecture night.

  6. Hi Mark

    Just read the article about your dinosaur finds. The 2010 trip back to Montana sounds great. Could you let me know when the lecture is on and/or any further info that’s available.
    Many thanks, Anne

  7. Hi Anne
    The dig program in Montana is advancing but the New Years break slowed us down a tad. I don’t have final date and cost details yet, so will delay the information night and lecture a few more weeks. Keep an eye out for news then.

  8. Hi Mark,

    I’m an American living in Western Australia. I happen to be going back to the US the middle of July until the middle of August for family reunion, visits, etc. I would love to help at your dig if possible. My ticket Perth -Portland-Perth is already paid for, so I would just need to make inter-US flights, etc. Please let me know if you are still looking for help and any more details that have been derived.


  9. Thanks for your interest Donna. I have some news on the dig to upload shortly. Sorry for the delay, just crazy work and priorities lately. cheers

  10. Hi Mark,

    I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to cancel the Montana dig. It was going to fit so well with my travels. I hope everything gets settled to the best benefit of the dinosaur and you can get back in and dig next year. Unfortunately I won’t be in the States next year so will miss out. I will keep watching your website to see how things are progressing. Best of luck,


  11. Hi, Mark, Are you planning to return for the raptor project this next summer when ROM comes down to look around? I think that the GPDM will be opening with a Julieraptor replica on display. It dropped off drastically after Sept. If you come up, let me know. Dixie

  12. Hi Dixie
    Man am I behind in updating my blog!
    I have floated a gold exploration company called Talga Gold Ltd on the stock exchange here in Australia so am fulltime.
    ROM haven’t contacted me about Julieraptor so will have to wait and see.
    Sounds great though am so pleased for the Bruckners and you guys that Julieraptor is up and about at last. I will see if we can get permission to post a few pics.

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