Fossil Hunting In the Gobi – Shelf Life 360
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Fossil Hunting In the Gobi – Shelf Life 360

November 16, 2019


The Gobi Desert is a vast place. It occupies half a million square miles—one
of the largest deserts in the world. The Gobi is also one of the few great, large
areas that’s a real treasure for dinosaurs, early mammals, and other forms of prehistoric
life. The Central Asiatic Expeditions, headed by
Roy Chapman Andrews from the American Museum of Natural History occurred between 1922 and
1930. Roy Chapman Andrews was one of the most famous
explorers in the Museum’s history. Roy was the leader. He was the organizer. He was the fundraiser. He was very flamboyant, kind of a dashing
explorer figure. The Central Asiatic Expeditions were a massive,
massive undertaking—over 120 camels, 40 scientists and technicians. It was the first time that an expedition extensively
used motorcars. So, it was a very elaborate and a highly organized
effort. This is not a hospitable place, the Gobi Desert,
and in the 1920s, a very poorly mapped, a very poorly known region. It really presented a lot of challenges, and
a lot of dangers to the expedition—sandstorms, and dust storms, and high winds. There are poisonous snakes. There were bandits, and it’s hard to find
your way around. At the very end of the field season in 1922,
Roy Chapman Andrews and the expedition were lost. Roy and some members of the team got out of
their vehicles to ask for directions. But while they were doing that, their cameraman
Shackleford walked over to the edge of this plateau and looked down, and he saw this amazing
array of red cliffs, the Flaming Cliffs. Shackleford walked down, and he started to
find fossils. And then he was joined by other members of
the team, and they started crawling around, and they started finding all this stuff. But it was already the end of the season,
and they knew they had to come back. Well, they did come back in 1923, and the
rest is history. They found all these dinosaurs there—protoceratops,
oviraptors, the dinosaur nest eggs, and some very small, very important fossil mammals. So, this is a very, very important area evolutionarily
speaking because it preserves the best evidence of these early mammals that give us clues
to how modern mammals evolved and branched out and diversified into all the wondrous
kinds of mammals we see today. I’m Mike Novacek, Provost of Science and a
curator of paleontology here at the American Museum of Natural History. On the shelves around us, you see a lot of
fossils. Many of these fossils were collected by the
Central Asiatic Expeditions in the 1920s to the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, that were led
by Roy Chapman Andrews. And the important thing about these specimens
is that we’re still making discoveries about them. There’s more to learn. So, even specimens that were discovered many,
many years ago are still inspiring new and original work in the science of paleontology.

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  1. When Film-makers address Cultural History the result can be a revelation to viewers. That said, as someone who works in film and compositing, I personally find the work shown in the above clip aesthetically unattractive. To be specific, the elements jar because of poor clip stabilisation; irregular grading, mismatching of scale between still and motion sources, and distortion as a result of the source media, and the software employed. The combined effect of these elements works to distract my attention from the subject matter, rather than hold my attention.

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