We're going to need a bigger box....

Pictured: the contents of ‘loose bones’ bag 1. Not shown: the same again from ‘loose bones’ bag 2….

We’ve now reached the final stage of the Niger Sauropod project, and it’s bigger than we thought. As it turns out the two remaining bags were absolutely stuffed full of loose ‘float’ bones, presumably collected from all over the dig site…. Around 400 pieces in all!

There wasn’t much prep work needed on these, but they did need a good clean to get that Sahara dust off them. This could have been achieved with an air abrader but would have been a lot more time and hassle than it was worth, so instead we opted for giving them all a good wash in clean water and a gentle scrub with a toothbrush. Once this was done, the next (very daunting) step was to see if any of these pieces of bone fit together with any of the others….

Surprisingly, thanks to the intrepid efforts of various lab staff (who can resist a good jigsaw?), a few associations were found and we managed to piece together a few of them. Rather than making up a support base for each and every bone, the float material we’ve worked on so far has simply been put into plastazote-lined Tupperware boxes. We’ve had to get two extra-large boxes for these last few hundred bones; to save space we’re attempting to put in multi-tiered layers within the box. The goal is that the bones will be well protected, won’t knock together and be easily accessible by researchers wishing to study them.

Just a week or two to go, and then the Niger Sauropod project will be complete!

Kieran Miles has been a preparatory volunteer on the Niger Sauropod project since it began in November 2011.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith