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A Dinosaur Graveyard

By 26th September 2018News

Palaeontology might be the realm of science rather than history, but considering that dinosaurs are said to have lived between 245 and 66 million years ago, there’s definitely something historic about these incredible reptiles! Mankind has long since been fascinated with the idea of giant dinosaurs* who dominated the planet millions of years ago, so the discovery of a massive dinosaur graveyard in Qhemerha village, just outside the town of Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape, is not only attracting scientists, but the general public as well, who are excited to see what’s being hailed as the biggest fossil discovery in the world!

Professor Jonah Choiniere (left) with Dumangwe Tyhobela (centre) and Professor Roger Benson of Oxford University

Professor Jonah Choiniere (left) with Dumangwe Tyhobela (centre) and Professor Roger Benson (right) of Oxford University

It was local shepherd, Dumangwe Tyhobela, who discovered the first dinosaur fossil in Qhemerha back in 2016. He had never seen a bone that size, which was larger than a human skull, and took it to an isangoma with the aim of selling it to her for bone throwing. The sangoma chased Tyhobela away, telling him that he would bring bad luck on the village if he didn’t return the bone to where he found it. But Tyhobela knew that there was something special about it and was curious to find out more, so he enlisted the help of geography teacher, Themba Jikajika, who contacted Wits University.

The site, which is currently being excavated, has attracted scientists from universities around the world. According to Professor Jonah Choiniere, who is leading the excavation, the discovery of this number of dinosaur fossils in one place is the first of its kind in the world. Not only is the number of fossils impressive, but the fact that the skeletons are so complete is also unusual:

For most of us, it’s our first time to find a specimen this articulated. So, usually, you will find one piece of leg, a bone or a hand bone, but here you have most of the skeleton, so it’s very important.” Cebisa Mdekeza, Palaeontology Master’s student at Wits University

So well done to Dumangwe Tyhobela for his perseverance – it shows what a curious mind and a bit of tenacity can achieve – a historic discovery that puts his hometown on the world map!

* Argentinosaurus huinculensis, a herbivorous dinosaur, is the largest known dinosaur known and is estimated to have weighed a massive 96.4 metric tons and measured an incredible 39.7 metres in length

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