Amateurs to dig for Aussie dinosaurs

The Australian Age of Dinosaur dig will last three weeks on a sheep property west of Winton, 1400km northwest of Brisbane.


About 40 children and adults will participate in the dig alongside paleontologists.

Queensland Museum paleontologist Dr Scott Hocknull told AAP the dig would excavate a site where two dinosaurs were discovered four years ago.

“It’s where we found Banjo (Australovenator) the most complete meat-eating dinosaur in Australia and Matilda (Diamantinasaurus) a giant plant-eating dinosaur,” he said.

Banjo, or the Australovenator, was dubbed Australia’s answer to the feared Velociraptor and is described as cheetah-like with three large slashing claws on each hand.

Matilda, or Diamantinasaurus, was its unarmored prey.

The dinosaurs were named after balladeer Banjo Paterson and the characters in his poetry. Paterson wrote Waltzing Matilda in Winton in 1885.

Mr Hocknull said the annual dig was open to the public but had been booked out.

“You don’t have to be a scientific boffin to go on these digs,” he said.

“We’re bringing in people who have never seen, dug or handled a dinosaur bone in their life and training them to be modern paleontologists in a matter of weeks.”

Mr Hocknull said that before these discoveries, many paleontologists had written off Australia due to lack of fossil finds.

“We’ve completely turned that on its head,” he said.

“We’ve got more dinosaurs coming out and hundreds of bones that are really well preserved.”

North-eastern Australia has the lion’s share of dinosaur fossil discoveries because of a giant inland sea, 100 million years ago, he said.

“If you threw a dart at a map of western Queensland, I could find you a dinosaur site,” he said.

“A hundred million years ago (central Queensland) was on a massive flood plain bigger than the Amazon … depositing hundreds of metres of sediment.

“So the bones of these animals accumulated in the flood debris.

“It’s very flat country but what’s happened over the last 100 million years is … it has slowly been eroded away.”

He said bone discoveries by farmers in the district were in many cases just the tip of the iceberg.

The dig runs from August 15 until September 4.

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