HELL CREEK FORMATION, N.D. - Harrison Duran made a discovery of Jurassic proportions during his first expedition to the North Dakota Badlands when he unearthed a 65-million-year-old partial Triceratops skull.
The fifth-year biology student at the University of California, Merced, has been obsessed with dinosaurs since he was a kid.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” said Duran, “I’ve been passionate about this since I was a small child, and the passion has not dwindled as you can tell.”
Duran set out on his first expedition with experienced excavator Michael Kjelland, a professor at Mayville State University in North Dakota, who Duran says has been digging up bones in the Badlands for more than 20 years.
The two met at a conference where Kjelland invited Duran on an expedition to dig up dinosaurs. Duran accepted the invitation without hesitation.
The two had been monitoring the badlands for almost a week when they found the skull, which would’ve looked like a pile of rocks to the untrained eye, Duran said.
“I was very happy with this find, and I was happy to uncover this piece of history for everybody,” Duran said.
Once they discovered the skull, Duran said they used specialized glue to harden the pieces of fragmented bone to keep the fossil intact until being wrapped in foil and plaster to be transported.
After 10 days of careful digging, they were able to remove the massive skull, which they named “Alice” after the landowner.
Duran said the skull measures roughly 6 feet in length, with the horn itself measuring around 4 feet long, and that’s without the missing bottom jaw, which he said may be lost in time forever.
He said they are going to create a composite of different missing parts in order to present a complete life-size representation of what the skull would have looked like. Duran said he and Kjelland want to put the fossil on display to educate the public and give everyone the chance to catch a glimpse of the priceless find.
He and Kjelland started a nonprofit called Fossil Excavators devoted to getting the public interested in excavating fossils and paleoecology.
While Duran said there are tons of entities out there looking to get a hold of priceless fossils like Alice for purely “privatized needs,” he isn’t worried, because he said the location of the skull will remain a secret until it goes on display.