On July 15, 2003, a Russian-Belgian paleontological expedition discovered the unique remains of a dinosaur and other ancient creatures of the planet in the Amur region in Russia’s Far East, not far from the settlement of Kundur.
Scientists working on the excavation site found separate bones of ancient crocodiles and tortoises, as well as the complete skeleton of a dinosaur.
The joint expedition, as part of the scientific and technological cooperation between Belgium and Russia, was working in an area where a gigantic dinosaur gravesite had been discovered by accident four years prior. At that time, builders of the federal Chita-Khabarovsk highway came upon some unusual bones during their work. The paleontologists who arrived in the area shortly afterwards not only discovered bones and various fragments of ancient reptiles, but the complete skeleton of a dinosaur.
As it turned out, the skeleton belonged to a helmet-headed hadrosaurus, which was a duckbilled, plant-eating dinosaur. He was more than 12-meters long and weighed nearly five tons while alive. Russian paleontologists called it “the giant swan of Arkhara” (an urban settlement in Russia’s Far East) or “Vanyusha” (affectionate form of the Russian boy’s name Ivan) and took three years to excavate. “Vanyusha” has been on display in Russian and Belgian museums, but today is kept safely in storage.
Paleontologists treat the ancient bones with the greatest care; the fundamental rule during an excavation is “Do not damage anything, or else your descendants will never forgive you!”
Revealing the bones of creatures that walked the region more than 65 million years ago is not an easy task; chairman of the expedition, Yury Bolotsky described why these discoveries are so rare for Russia:
“Unfortunately, the Amur region is not like the state of Montana, nor the province of Alberta and not even like the Gobi desert in Mongolia, where everything lies on the surface. Here, everything is matted; all is covered by either swamps or forest, which is why all exploration sites are generally in cultivated areas. It is either the federal highway of Amur or a mining area.”
There are less than ten places in Russia where dinosaur bones have been discovered and the Amur region is the richest of them all. Over the past decade, Russian and Belgian paleontologists have revealed more than ten thousand artifacts. Generally, the bones belonged to the plant-eating hadrosauridae family, but there has also been the unearthing of the teeth and bones of the movie-famous Tyrannosaurus or T-Rex.