Archive 2013

A hadrosaur dinosaur in Mexico and a science conscious Mother Brigid Gallagher Jul 24


Today I had a flash back.  Our 3 year old was having a pout about not seeing any bones at the Auckland Art gallery and that they had not been to the museum.  And our 6 year old was describing her favorite pieces at the Gallery which were the Maori designs and patterns…and I thought… HANG ON A MINUTE!!!


And then I found this, something I had previously written but not got around to posting here…

about a year or so ago when the Wiggles were doing their swan song tour of NZ (before the new Wiggles came into power) I was trying desperately trying to find cool science within the songs and messages.  I was looking for a glimmer of the nuts and bolts stuff that my young ones would suck up and absorb for all eternity…and quite possibly lead them to be Scientist of the Year 2030.

Having danced in the aisles to appropriately role model positive, social behaviour, and sung the songs out loud…I remained unsure that The Wiggles were the answer.

Fruit Salad, yummy yummy…Nutrition and diet?

Hot Potato Hot Potato…Physics and heat transfer?

Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car…Mechanics, chromatics?

D.O.R.O.T.H.Y (My Favourite Dinosaur)…Palaentology?  Horticulture??

Can We Dig It?…. Archaeology and Sport Science?  Had I found a previously undiscovered archaeological anthem in all its  technicolour glory?

“Digging up the dirt in a line….

Digging in the sun, having lots of fun….

Digging with a shovel, or a trowel….

Digging is what we love to do.”

So then I looked for alternatives and came very naturally and quickly to Dora the Explorer.  She is an obvious contender as she tears about the Mexican country side visiting temples, jungles and lakes on cars, trains and animals.  She knows trolls and unicorns, and visits castles which obviously sit in the the world of archaeology?!!??!?!!!!

Then there is Diego, Doras cousin.  He rescues and looks after animals in need.  He has cool gadgets and modes of transport like parachutes in packs and skateboards, and he and his sister Alicia provide preschoolers with a good grounding in animal types, the noises and actions they make, and the equipment needed to help them when they are hurt or want to study them (see the photo below where Dora, Alicia and Diego are in the ‘lab’ with a computer and camera with tripod).  Not only are kids learning about nature and their environment, but the programme also helps them become accustomed to technology and its uses.  I actually might be getting somewhere in this search!?

And then across to the Bubble Guppies!  Which I have to confess I am strangely drawn to because…well I am not going to dwell on the because!  But they have an episode which is my personal favorite  AND another Mexican based story.  The Bubble Guppies go on a treasure hunt (which our eldest would happily do every day if a favourite treat was at the end!) and they come across the pretzelcoatl dragon that lives in a stone Aztec pyramid ‘The temple of the golden pretzel’ and loves to eat pretzels!  Not only do these under water guppies show us a whole world that I never new existed, but I was reminded about about discovery, the thrill of the search and historic architecture… and how much fun it can be doing it!!

But now today, a year on from my original writing … my girls have got older, but it is still about getting some meaningful brain fodder into them whilst still letting them enjoy the visual stimuli that preschool/early school tv offers them, and they enjoy.


Enter THE Hadrosaur tail discovered in Mexico, this week in the news.   It ticks all the boxes for me in interesting my young children in science, except 1:

It has been found in Mexico by students and paleontologists at the National Institute for Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

It is the longest, most intact or articulated set of 50 vertebrae bones found in Mexico to date.

Its preservation is unusually good due to its deposition and the burial environment, ie you see the bones, your get that these belonged to BIG creatures, and they have been hidden for 72 million years, like treasure!

The article also states that scientists already know that dinosaurs suffer from tumours and arthritis, meaning that they really needed medical attention (and my kids do like Doc Stuffins these days)… I must look that up…

And the bones were found in a desert that was once on the coast in Northern Mexico (Dora and co go to deserts and both my girls are interested in camels and extreme environments for some reason)

And that paleontologists had to carefully dig to reveal the fossilized bones and that they will be carefully moved away from the  site for cleaning and investigation (mum digs in the dirt for old things, and some times bones…just like Dora the Explorers mum! – what do you know we have gone full circle, and I am forced to compete with an animated character).


But the hadrosaur story is a real discovery, from the real news… which my children might well be able to understand, learn something from and be excited about…



but the Excavation of the duck-billed (hadrosaur) dinosaur video and the media articles do not help in any way, shape or form when it comes to re-affirming knowledge and information I try to pass on, as the the answer to the question I inevitably respond to most when asked by the general public about all the dinosaur bones I have excavated….that archaeologists do not generally excavate dinosaurs.

Archaeologists investigate and care for the evidence of past humans!


But I am taking this real new story by the hand with a firm grip…

I think I will go and make an A1 poster of this story for their bedroom wall!








What in Earth???? Brigid Gallagher Feb 19

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So you are looking to buy or develop a nice piece of land on our beautiful New Zealand coastline?

I can see it now…the long gin and tonic, the slice of lime, the sound of native birds hopping about a canopy of lush green native flora…


Whats that?

There is an archaeological site in your land??!?!

What in earth is an archaeological site anyway?

In the New Zealand Archaeological Associations digital database ArchSite it is a small red dot usually with a large black rectangle attached to it, and a number next to it.

On the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register it is probably not there.

On your local district plan it might be a green dot with, a number  next to it.

A LINZ or PINZ report will show it as a small mark, like a dot, too.  With a larger shape attached encapsulating a larger area.

My dot, oh I meant point, is that archaeological sites are typically not as small as a single dot when seen in reality.  Very often you cant see them when driving your car for the hundredth time past your perfect bit of land… Very often they are invisible from the surface,

Archaeological sites are literally IN the earth.

They have the potential to be lurking anywhere just under the ground surface.  And reason they are in the earth… is because they were here before any of us.  They are the physical remains of peoples ancestors…real people, real New Zealanders.

Just like people today, when a family or a community decides to put down roots and build a house, or a village, or a swimming pool complex,

they spread out, some mess is made and sometimes that mess and rubbish is left behind after the building, or playing, or living is done….

well the same happened with people who left their mark in the earth many many moons ago.

In the scenario in my head…perhaps out came the tools, then came the wood, in went the windows, somebody cooked the lunch, and over there is where the rubbish went every day after lunch.  And no, like you, I don’t like sitting next to rotting rubbish while I eat my lunch…and I can’t imagine many others do either?

So, lets put that rubbish a few meters away in this hot summer sun, and then it doesn’t matter much if the birds come and help themselves to the left overs, the ants wont become bothersome, and my nose can retain the sweet smell of our beautiful nature and I can still enjoy the sound and vision of the waves gently crashing against the sand.

Ah, space!  The great kiwi outdoors!  Wide open spaces, lots of places to roam, many places to explore!  The best campground ever!  It has always been the same…

Our past heritage is more than just a drop in the ocean of time…sorry a dot in the landscape,

Archaeological sites make way more sense when you connect the dots and understand that nobody makes a single piece of mess in a lifetime, loose their possessions in one small defined place or has a house that they never leave; we and our ‘things’ have the potential to spread!  

The conclusion: New Zealands human past took place in one large camp site…across wide open spaces, with lots of places to roam.  But all of them connected in some way.

Moral: When the campground needs to develop and make additions, it is quite likely that the physical remains of earlier camp dwellers will be found in the earth, and not just where the council, the NZAA or the NZHPT have put their dot. This is no nasty trick, this is just what happens.

And that folks is archaeology.  More than just a dot in space and time….its a hidden landscape in the earth.

cin cin!

(the author is not responsible for the quality of her content…she has diminished responsibility on account of repetitive questioning regarding the existence and size of archaeological sites :)

(note: I am not referring to a real campground, this is a metaphor ;)



Baldrick’s Cunning Plan? Brigid Gallagher Feb 12


For all the archaeologists, history buffs, enthusiasts and Time Team (Tony Robinson) fans out there – Baahahaahahahahaha!


Richard III – A Right Royal Scientific Synthesis Recipe Brigid Gallagher Feb 11


My text and email has been alive the past weeks.  ”You must be really fascinated”, ” WOW, is it cool!”, “Have you been watching news”.

What has it all been about?  Richard the III of course!

The coolest thing about this?

Is that the use of a well know person or family can drag archaeology and heritage out of the past and into the future, and todays  reality.  The biggest curse of heritage is that people cant see the point of doing it, hearing about it, accommodating it in today’s society.  A story like Richard III cuts through all of that.

A story about a royal immediately gives flesh to the subject.  You see the paintings, read the text (even Shakespeare’s version), can visit the castles, the churches, and the carpark if you fancy it.  It is tangible.  On the outside it feels as though anybody, anytime, can make a discovery like this!

Most skeletons excavated in the UK never have a name.  The report reads “‘Joe or Jane Doe’, lived a long time ago…probably this time based on the ‘other’ information/features found during the excavation (he style of the pottery, the method and imagery on the painted glass windows, the direction of the burial etc).  Most of the time their statistics are recorded along with their probable age range, gender and any evidence of disease of lifestyle on the bone, and reburied.  In the past they were probably put in a box and taken to a storeroom for later study, maybe.

This story, with the science DNA analysis brings gives credibility to a story that really is just about people at the end of the day…ok a rich and powerful one, who may or may not have been really evil and murderous, with the appearance of a hunchback…but a story that connects many NZers back to the ‘motherland’ and its royal associations, and is all about the celebs or ‘it’ people of the past.  What girl has not wanted to marry a Prince, and be a Princess at some point?

This story at its heart is about a lot of people, all producing layers of information that can be brought together to tell a whole story, that society can relate to.  And like most projects there was probably a whole lot of leg work done by enthusiasts well before the archaeologists, University and tv companies got involved.

But once they did get involved…well this is my interpretation of the Royal scientific synthesis recipe used in the finding of King Rich:

Before you start the mixing:

Do your reading, know the story, further the research, then locate a skeleton from under a car park in Leicester;


1. record the size, profile and position of the grave cut

2. draw the position of the skeleton and any other burial elements (coffin nails, shrouds etc)

3. discuss the fit of the skeleton in the grave cut, and the condition (even neatness) of the grave itself

4. conclude on who did it and how the body would have been buried.


1. Record the detail in the bones (were missing body parts contemporary with the life of the person or occur post burial, aging and gender evidence etc)

2. Record evidence of physical stress and disease/illness on the bone, like scoliosis

3. Compare the historic documents/images of potential candidates with the information from the skeleton

4. Discuss, discuss, discuss

5. Conclude on the person/family the skeleton is most likely to originate from


1. Sample the skeleton, in this case the teeth and femur

2. Trace possible direct descendants, using peerage information, and the female lines (for the mitochondrial DNA)

3. Sample the DNA of the possible descendant

4. DNA analysis……

….Months later


1. Report the findings….

2. Give a face to the person (through facial reconstruction techniques for example)

3. Allow time for critique, positive and negative to occur

4. Wait to see if there is an increase in funding available for DNA analysis to connect with people today, an increase in media attention given to archaeology and an increase in tourist visitors to the associated places.

….Months later


Report the findings in a peer reviewed journal – confirmation to critics and peers the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.


Use the information and the story to maintain PART 4, point 4 above into the future.

If the story of Richard the III invigorates the interest of society, funders, institutions and next LOTTO winner in heritage projects then that makes for a very tasty outcome to me!

You can hear some of my thoughts on this on Radio NZ <iframe src=”″ width=”100%” frameborder=”0″ height=”62px”></iframe> 

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