Message #208:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: This Guy Says The Horse Can-Do
Date: Sat, 31 May 1997 20:07:14 -0700


[ Note:  Apologies to Frank Loesser  -- the Subject words are from the
tune "Can Do," from the musical "Guys and Dolls."  And, hey, no jokes
about Nag -pra please!  -- SASIG Ed. ]

http://www.azcentral.com/sev/features/sefeatures.shtml

Horse of a different era -- John Babiarz is no stranger to digging up 28
million-year-old skulls of saber-toothed cats.  But the amateur
paleontologist is almost as excited about excavating a 150-year-old
horse skeleton he discovered two weeks ago in a stand of palm trees at
his Greenfield Citrus Nursery in Mesa. 

Horse of a different era: 150-year-old bones found in Mesa
By Barbara Yost The Arizona Republic May 31, 1997 

MESA - John Babiarz is no stranger to digging up 28 million-year-old
skulls of saber-toothed cats. But the amateur paleontologist is almost
as excited about excavating a 150-year-old horse skeleton he discovered
two weeks ago in a stand of palm trees at his Greenfield Citrus Nursery
in Mesa.  On Friday, workers slid boards under the skeleton to form a
platform, then hoisted it out of its tomb with a crane. "It's no saber
cat," Babiarz said, waving around a femur picked clean of flesh. "But
even if it's just historic, it still tells a story." What that story is
is anybody's guess. Babiarz will send bone fragments to the University
of Arizona for carbon-dating to determine the skeleton's age. From its
condition, he estimates the horse died and was buried where it fell 100
to 150 years ago. The bones have no trace of hair, one of the last
substances on a carcass to disintegrate. But they had not become
fossilized - when bone is replaced by minerals and turns to stone. That
would indicate much older origins.  Babiarz also said he believes: The
horse was probably a female, since it has no canine teeth. In females,
canines are small or absent. The carcass was not devoured by coyotes,
which would have ravaged and scattered the bones. The skeleton is
articulated, or intact, from head to ribs to tail. Nellybelle passed
into peaceful repose. She was probably about 20 to 25 years old when she
died and suffered from arthritis, evident in rough deposits on leg
bones. Babiarz said the horse may have belonged to one
of the Mormon families who settled Mesa's Lehi Valley in the 1800s. When
the animal died after years of service, she was either buried or became
buried over the next century.  She also might have been a wild horse, he
said. Greenfield Citrus Nursery is on land that was once the flood plain
of the Salt River, whose course has been altered over thousands of
years. The Hohokam people inhabited the area from A.D. 900 to 1400.  Had
the river still run through the land, flooding would have quickly
fossilized the horse's skeleton. Babiarz's work crew discovered the
horse while digging up a palm tree. Babiarz stopped by the site and saw
a leg bone lying by the side of the hole. He instructed the men to dig
deeper, and eventually they were able to expose the entire skeleton,
imbedded in a block of dirt and clay and held fast by fibrous palm
roots. Though he has taken several of the bones into his shop for
examination, Babiarz does not plan to dissemble the skeleton and
reconstruct it as a model.  It will be left in the block of dirt and
displayed as it was found - "or you lose the integrity." Babiarz knows
how to treat old bones. His office at Greenfield Citrus is filled with
saber-toothed skulls, shark jaws, fossilized sea cow skulls, prehistoric
pigs - all millions of years old. He regularly goes on digs around the
country unearthing treasures of paleontology. Some of his finds are in
the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  Completely self-taught,
he points to stacks of books that have been his teachers. He has also
worked with some of the leading paleontologists in America. Last year,
he was one of the sponsors of the Dinofest exhibition at Arizona State
University. His current project is the proposed Scottsdale Museum of
Natural History, where he would like his skeleton to be part of an
exhibit on the history of the horse. Backers are hoping to house the
museum in the Scottsdale Galleria. Such an exhibit could also find a
home at the Mesa Southwest Museum, he said. Given the time and effort he
has put in to preserve the specimen, Babiarz is determined to find
Nellybelle an appropriate resting place. "I wouldn't want to leave it
here," he said. "It'll just get chopped up. You want to save it."


[Photo /MIchael Meister/The Arizona Republic]
Photo Caption:  This horse skeleton will not be disassembled and
reconstructed as a model. John Babiarz said it will be left in the block
of dirt and displayed as it was found - "or you lose the integrity."