How the Saharas strangest Stone Age graveyard was uncovered

September 22nd, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic

Washington, September 22 (ANI): The Sahara deserts strangest Stone Age graveyard, which was uncovered in the year 2000 by a small team of paleontologists, had excavated 20 tons of dinosaur bones and other prehistoric animals.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the team, which was led by Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, scattered on foot across the toffee-colored sands of the Tenere desert in northern Niger.

Referred to as a desert within a desert, the Tenere desert is a California-size ocean of sand and rock, where a single massive dune might stretch a hundred miles, and the combination of 120-degree heat and inexorable winds can wick the water from a human body in less than a day.

The harsh conditions, combined with intermittent conflict between the Tuareg tribe and the Niger government, have kept the region largely unexplored.

Sereno, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and one of the worlds most prolific dinosaur hunters, had led his first expedition into the Tenere five years earlier, after negotiating agreements with both the leader of a Tuareg rebel force and the Niger Ministry of Defense, allowing him safe passage to explore its fossil-rich deposits.

That initial foray was followed by others, and each time his team emerged from the desert with the remains of exotic species, including Nigersaurus, a 500-toothed plant-eating dinosaur, and Sarcosuchus, an extinct crocodilian the size of a city bus.

The 2000 expedition, however, was his most ambitiousthree months scouring a 300-mile arc of the Tenere, ending near Agadez, a medieval caravan town on the western lip of the desert.

Already, his team members had excavated 20 tons of dinosaur bones and other prehistoric animals.

Mike Hettwer, a photographer accompanying the team, headed off by himself toward a trio of small dunes. He crested the first slope and stared in amazement.

The dunes were spilling over with bones. He took a few shots with his digital camera and hurried back to the Land Rovers.

I found some bones, Hettwer said, when the team had regrouped. But theyre not dinosaurs. Theyre human, he added. (ANI)

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