Carmel Church Day 13


Today was our last day at Carmel Church, and there wasn’t much left to do. Our main task was to make our last jacket, which included several vertebrae and other bones. The jacket is shown above, just before adding the plaster, and the marked up version is below:


The vertebrae are outlined in red, and other bones in green, although there are several bones in this jacket I didn’t mark. The jacketing went perfectly; here it is just before we flipped it:


With that jacket out of the way, all we had left was cleaning up and removing a small apparent rib fragment in the wall behind where jacket 2 was removed. That turned out to be a 2-hour task, as the bone got bigger and bigger, and turned out to not be a rib. In fact, it was the strangest find of the entire trip:





I don’t know what this thing is! It appears to be pathological, based on the irregular shape of the big giant lump in the middle. I believe it probably sat on the midline, and may involve paired bones (the split at one end is real, not damage).

My best (very tentative) guess is that this is a pathological odontocete rostrum, or perhaps mandible. Gerholdt and Godfrey (2010) reported pathological odontocete rostra from the Chesapeake Group, and this reminds me a little of those. But I’m bothered by the complete absence of tooth sockets in this specimen. Whatever it is, though, it’s the first one we’ve ever found at Carmel Church, and was quite an ending to a successful 2 weeks in the field.

I’d like to once again thank Tim Rice and Jason Babcock from Martin Marietta for helping us with access to the quarry, and all our donors for making this excavation possible.

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11 Responses to Carmel Church Day 13

  1. umebooks says:

    that is a cool Gomphotherium tusk 🙂

  2. umebooks says:

    i had to look up how to spell it. glad everything worked out, have a good trip back home.
    thanks for having Josh and me come up to dig.

  3. George says:


    It may be an osteosarcoma a malignant bone cancer found in mammals and it is lethal secondary to pancreatic cancer

  4. Boesse says:

    Hey Butch – what’s the possibility of this thing being a pathologic Xiphiacetus anterior edentulous rostrum?

  5. altondooley says:

    @Boesse: I’ve wondered that, and it could be. I’m going to compare it to our Carmel Church Xiphiacetus on Monday. My first gut feeling is that it seems too big; it’s 30 cm long and edentulous for its entire length. Also, it’s strongly concave on the ventral surface (or what would be the ventral surface if it really is a rostrum). The curvature in lateral view is a little strange, too, but that could be a result of the pathology.

    That said, I don’t have a better suggestion.

  6. Doug says:

    I’d say it was a chevron, but the split at the end is too narrow.

  7. Doug says:

    or even more unlikely: the beak of a bird gone horribly wrong…

  8. Dave Bohaska says:

    I vote for the pathological rostrum of Gerholdt and Godfrey. Smithsonian has six of them, and none have the tooth sockets preserved. I suspect the bone around the sockets is punky and easily eroded out. I was there when some of these were CAT scanned, and the discussion group included forensic anthropologists and a noted specialist in bone diseases. I don’t remember any one explanation being satisfactory. The multiple specimens suggest that the growth may be normal for some unknown species. The first specimens found lacked tooth sockets, and were identified as ziphiid (Gottfried, Bohaska, and Whitmore 1994), but the specimen with teeth and sockets calls that into question. The curvature on yours is different, and I believe this one is the only one with good stratigraphic control.

  9. altondooley says:

    The S-curve in presumed lateral view is strange, but could be a response to the tumor.

    I’m cleaning this up today, and hopefully I can get some follow-up pictures on the blog soon. I think I may also take this to the SeAVP meeting this Friday.

  10. Paul Murdoch says:

    Butch – Very exciting find!!! Hillary found one of these years ago in Florida. I concur w/ Dave’s comments about most likely candidate being a pathological rostrum discussed in Gerholdt and Godfrey’s paper. I’m glad to hear that more than the 4 I had previosuly known about exist. Keep us posted as you work towards a satisfactory Iidentification of the specimen!!!

  11. Fossils says:

    The pathological bone might be a fused radius and ulna.It could have the bone broken during some accident, and probably didn’t heal right, making the bump.And, although older, the fossil of Big Al had a foot bone that had broke, and fused with other foot bones, and also had this huge bump on it.

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