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Editorial: Honorary archaeologists


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October 1, 2013 by CORINNE LYNDS

Excavation contractors need to update their resumes. Besides the usual qualifications such as “ability to cut grade quickly” and “10 years experience,” they need to add: honorary archeologist to the list. 

Headless corpses, remains of royalty, ancient civilizations and lost temples have been found on construction sites around the world. 

It has been a big year for England, the remains of King Richard III were dug up in a parking lot in Leicester. And a mass grave of headless Vikings was excavated in Dorset. 

At least one contractor in California will quickly confirm, you never know what you might dig up. Back in February, in Laguna Canyon, workers dug up whale fossils, including four previously undiscovered species. 

In Bali, Indonesia, workers discovered remnants of an ancient building from the 13th to 15th centuries, thought to be the foundation of a Hindu temple, possibly the largest yet discovered. 

Here in Canada, we’ve dug up dinosaur fossils and human remains in the last two months alone. 

A backhoe operator in Alberta nearly destroyed a scientific treasure potentially millions of years in the making. While using a backhoe to clear a site for Tourmaline Oil Corp., the worker uncovered a 32-ft. long section of a dinosaur tail. Initially, the operator thought he had chipped off some rock, but when he noticed the distinctive vertebrae, he stopped work and called in the experts. Paleontologist Matthew Vavrek inspected the discovery and was amazed at the fossil’s preservation. “The last time I’ve seen something like that was in a museum.” 

According to experts it could take years to identify what type of dinosaur the tail belonged to. 

A more common find on construction sites is that of human remains. Creepy factor aside, it’s also a major cause of project delays. A good example of this happened just last month in Ottawa. Work on one of the oldest water main pipes in the city remains on hold after bones were uncovered. Police forensic experts have confirmed the bones are human and likely part of a historic burial site. 

The list of weird and wonderful construction site discoveries goes on and on. As far as I’m concerned excavation contractors are the unsung heroes of the archeological world. 

If you have discovered something interesting on one of your job sites, I would love to hear about it. Email editor@on-sitemag.com. 


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