Tim and I returned to Carmel Church today for a planned two-week excavation. This is our first trip to the site since last November, and I brought a chainsaw in anticipation of downed trees. It was a good decision, as is clear in the photo at the top. There turned out to be five large trees blocking the entrance road to the site, which took about an hour and a half to clear.
We finally arrived at a very muddy pit (it’s been raining here for three days):
The metal frame on the left is sitting over last year’s excavation. Our first task was to move the metal frame about 15 feet to the right (east). This is no easy job with only two people, since the frame is 20 feet long and is severely corroded from 8 years in the highly acidic Carmel Church sediment. One of the poles crumbled to dust when we tried to move it, but with a replacement pole, and a few hours of pushing, pulling, and grunting, we finally moved the frame and attached the tarp:
Between the trees, the tarp, and unloading the truck, we used up better than half the day. With the site so muddy that we could barely walk and rain still coming down, we decided to take the afternoon off. The weather is supposed to clear tomorrow, and the forecast is hot and sunny for the rest of the week.
Carmel Church being what it is, we still found some nice specimens on the surface before we even started digging. Here’s a partial lower tooth from a cow shark, Notorynchus cepidianus:
For some reason, Notorynchus upper teeth are much less common at Carmel Church than lower teeth, so it was nice to find these specimens within inches of each other. While these teeth are both uppers, they are not the same tooth position (in fact, they’re from opposite sides of the mouth); could they be from the same shark? Maybe, but that’s always a risky proposition at Carmel Church.
We also found a partial dentition from the bony fish Phyllodus:
Phyllodus has intrigued me for some time. These are fairly common in the Calvert Formation at Carmel Church, and (unlike this one) they often don’t appear reworked. Yet, this genus (in fact, the entire family) is not definitively known to occur later than the Eocene. In Virginia, Phyllodus is quite common in the Nanjemoy Formation, which is also exposed at Carmel Church. It seems that these teeth are being reworked from the Nanjemoy into the Calvert in fairly large numbers at Carmel Church, often without being badly damaged in the process.
More to come tomorrow (and don’t forget to check the Twitter feed for brief updates throughout the day).