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Washington D.C.'s Giant Raptor

On May 1, 1959 district sewer worker's discovered a vertebra while digging for a storm sewer in northeast Washington, D.C. Howard D. Thornett, construction management engineer for the Sanitary Engineering Department has been credited with the discovery. At the time, David Dunkle in the division of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Smithsonian, identified the fossil as part of a tail bone of a coelurosaur. Coelurosaur, a carnivorous dinosaur lived 100 million years ago during the lower cretaceous period.

Drawing by Mike Milborne. Click to enlarge

Today analysis of the photograph of the vertbebrae in the Washington Post article by Tom Holtz and Mike Milborne has lead to restorations of the dinosaur. Mike thinks it is a dromeosaur (raptor) and that it may have been larger than Utahraptor. This is based on his view that the bone is the 13th, 14th or 15th Caudal (tail bone). He estimates its size at 15-20 feet long and perhaps 1,000 lbs. However, if the vertebra was closer to the end of the tail, the raptor could be much larger. Tom Holtz thinks it may be a large raptor as well or perhaps something like Deltadromeus.

Raptor information

Mike Milborne has made a sculptured vertebra based on the existing photograph.

sculptured vertebra - top view sculptured vertebra
sculptured vertebra - side view sculptured vertebra - side view

The bone has yet to be located despite continuing efforts by Peter Kranz. Any information on where the vertebra may be today would be greatly appreciated.


"E. Capitol St. Antediluvian, 100 Million-Yr.-Old Dinosaur Bone Unearthed Here By Sewer Diggers", Washington Post, May 2, 1959, pp. A1, A7