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Digging into the past


Matthew Carroll
March 03, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — High on the craggy cliffs of Oman’s rocky desert landscape, Sarah Ivory squeezed into narrow, dark caves in search of a different kind of goldmine. Shaded away from the desert sun, Ivory tapped a dusty, gray rock with her hammer and heard the dull, hollow sound she’d been waiting for. 

An assistant professor of geosciences at Penn State, Ivory had found a special kind of fossil that, when cut open, would reveal smooth golden-brown layers that can help scientists see deep into the past. 

This was a fossil of a midden, a communal toilet used by generation after generation of a small, desert-dwelling animal. The same middens are sometimes used for tens of thousands of years. more

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