Excavating during the 2014 summer field season. Photo by Prairie Ranger Photography.

Ask a Palaeo!

How long does it take to dig up a dinosaur bone?
By Dr. Matthew Vavrek

The length of time it takes to dig up a dinosaur depends on so many things, and can vary from a few days to decades. For smaller skeletons in soft sediments, the skeleton can often be taken out in just a couple of weeks. However, some dinosaurs are much harder to excavate. For example, Cryolophosaurus, a dinosaur from Antarctica, was first found in 1991, and scientists are still returning to continue digging out the only known skeleton.

It is taking so long because the area is so hard to access and is often too cold to get to, and the fossils themselves are in rocks that are harder than concrete. Also, digging up a dinosaur is only the first step. After the dinosaur is dug up, it still needs to be fully cleaned and prepared in a lab, a process that can take years as well.


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