OK, so a wee while ago I had a rant. Not like me at all I know, but, at the time, I was a tad peeved that (some) people still appear to confuse archaeology with palaeontology. Dinosaurs, as I think I said at the time, have nothing to do with archaeology, they are not archaeological and are not found on archaeological sites, are not uncovered by archaeologists using archaeological tools to eventually be placed in an archaeological museum with 'other' archaeological finds.
The media (of course) often forgets this and happily talks about dinosaur bones being dug up by archaeologists, being studied by archaeologists and being endlessly searched for by archaeologists.
Archaeology is the study of human material culture and dinosaurs, as far as we can tell, were not in any way human. How organised their society was, we cannot tell, but, again as I said at the time, I suspect that they did not eat dinosaur roast dinners, work in dinosaur department stores, go to dinosaur church, restaurants or cinemas, have dinosaur holidays, fight dinosaur wars with dinosaur weapons of mass destruction and were therefore NOT human in the sense that we are human. Therefore, I went on (as I often do), as an archaeologist, I possess no opinion on their life-span, diet, skin colour, mating, forms of communication, transportation or defecation habits.
It seems I was wrong.
Last week news agencies around the world were reporting on a "gigantic communal latrine created at the dawn of time" unearthed in Argentina.
"Thousands of fossilised poos left by rhino-like megaherbivores were found clustered together" the
Fossilised coprolites, some "as wide as 40cm and weighing several kilograms" were found in "seven massive patches" across the Chanares Formation in La Rioja province the
Dr Lucas Fiorelli, who led the study, said only a large, mammal-like reptile such as a dicynodont was "capable of producing such sizeable chunks" adding that "one purpose of communal latrines would be to keep parasites in one place, on the principle that you don't poo where you eat. It's also a warning to predators. If you leave a huge pile, you are saying: 'Hey! We are a big herd. Watch out!"
Problem is, of course, all this talk of "communal toilets" and "public lavatories" is simply anthropomorphising our dino-chums, placing human social characteristics upon them and giving the press significant justification, it would appear, to use the terms 'archaeology' and 'archaeologists' in relation to the discovery (which they did a lot). Suddenly I'm being asked for my opinion on 'South American Dino-Lavs' (this threw me for a moment as I thought Dino-Lavs to be a new type of deluxe chemical toilet).
I hereby put on record that I have no opinion on the matter, other than to agree that the discovery does indeed prove that Dinosaurs pooped, a revelation that has not, as yet, got me leaping enthusiastically from foot to foot or shrieking in a high-pitched, over-excited way. Interesting as the find undoubtedly is to the palaeontologists, geologists and fossil-hunters out there, I'm afraid that this is not something that, as we say in Sussex, in any way grabs my weasel.