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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Expose (08/22/13)

TITLE: A Shovel of Dirt
By darlene thompson


In the spring 2000 near Gray, Tennessee, geologists with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, spotted a strange object protruding in the dirt. "Hey, grab a shovel--we need to expose more dirt! There's something down there!" The men rushed in with more shovels and tossed lots of dirt into the air. "Stop! Stop!" yelled one of the crew. "We have bones--lots and lots of bones!"

The foreman rushed in. "We need to contact state officials now!" Soon the Governor was on the phone and halted the construction project. He sent in paleontologists.

Nearby East Tennessee State University was notified and paleontologists discovered a sinkhole full of bones between 4.5 and 7 million years old from the Miocene-Epoch.

As scientists dug deeper into the hole, fossils of frogs, turtles, tapirs, elephants, alligators and red pandas appeared. The find created an entire paleontology program and laboratory for East Tennessee State University. By August 31, 2007, ETSU and General Shale and Brick joined forces and created the Natural History Museum. The fossil site is approximately five acres and the museum opened with 33,000 square feet but added another 7,000 square feet in 2011 for an educational annex.

Today, visitors have exceeded 250,000. Upon entering the museum, a film is presented about the discovery of the fossils. After viewing the film, you enter rooms where permanent exhibits are located. One exhibit is a Fossil Assembly Station where visitors can try their hand at putting bone pieces together by the touch of a computer. There are exhibits of skeletons with computer screens to tell about each animal. Tusks, jaws, turtle shells, animal teeth and more can be viewed. There is an interactive room where you actually dig in the type of the dirt the scientists are working in and you can try your hand at digging for fossils. There is an observation area to watch the archaeological team at work. You can watch prep labs clean fossil pieces they have uncovered. Murals represent the actual animals and plants uncovered. The museum exhibits change to coordinate the current fossil finds. The museum offers both self-guided and guided tours.

The Gray Fossil Site hold the world's largest tapir fossil find and new and rare discoveries such as the most complete skeleton of teleoceras (ancient rhinoceros), and new species of the red panda that makes only the second record of it in North America. Recently, a newly identified species of ancient plant-eating badger was discovered. Over the last several years more than 60 different plants and animals have been discovered.

It's hard to believe that the quiet farming community is now a hot bed for "bone seekers." The site is believed to hold enough bones to enlighten scientists, students, and thrill the public with new discoveries for the next 100 years. What a find from a shovel of dirt!

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This article has been read 187 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Matt Guddat08/29/13
Interesting information. You learn something new each day!
C D Swanson 08/30/13
Love the title! Good job with this informative and well written entry. I learned some new things!

God bless~
Virgil Youngblood 08/30/13
A very interesting and enjoyable read. Well done.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/05/13
Congratulations for ranking 6th your level and 21 overall! (The highest rankings can be found on the message boards.)
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/05/13
This was really interesting. I think you did a wonderful job of approaching the topic in a fresh way. The only red ink I would offer is to be careful not to repeat words in the same paragraph. One example was the word discover. That's a tiny thing though and I think overall you did a wonderful job with this. You're in a super competitive level right now and your writing is evidence of that. I can feel your excitement ooze of the page and cover me with a contagious sense of adventure. Well done!