As a child
one of my favorite books was ‘The Lost World’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Of course, it was probably the abridged version that I read, for I remember
several colorful pictures of a bovine looking Brontosaurus, a terrifying
Tyrannosaurus Rex, and a most dashing Professor George E. Challenger.
That and the large font text are probably good indications that my vocabulary
was still rather limited. You won’t find a plateau with bloodthirsty Tyrannosaurus
running amok, but China is home to the richest dinosaur egg deposits in
the world. Most of the eggs date from the Cretaceous period, 146 million
to 65 million years ago. This was a time when global temperatures were
much warmer and there were no glaciers. If you looked out a window into
this period you might see fast running duck billed hadrosaurs running
away from that mean looking Tyrannosaurus Rex as a flock of pterosaurs
soar above in the sky.
looking out that ‘window’ at Green Dragon Mountain in Hubei Province
today will show scientists from around the world trying to get into one
of the most exciting new sites in the world. This scientific treasure
trove is now guarded vigilantly by the Chinese government who now considers
dinosaur eggs ‘national treasures’. Excavation regulations and export
laws on fossils have been tightened to protect these treasures. As an
indication of the wealth of these deposits, accounts by the first western
scientists to this area speak of egg fossils in such abundance that children
were found playing with them while several examples were actually used
as building stone!
and more renowned site is the one in Nanxiong Basin, which is an
elongated intermontane basin located in northern Guangdong and southern
Jiangxi provinces. Since the first dinosaur eggs and mammal fossils were
discovered in the basin in 1961, over 1,000 eggs and more than 40,000
eggshell fragments have been collected from this region.
thinking of making this trip into prehistory then be forewarned that special
arrangements have to be made with the Cultural Bureau in each province,
the central authorities in Beijing, and possibly even the Public Security
Bureau. Otherwise access to the egg sites themselves will be denied and
one will have to be satisfied with the specimens in museums there.