Among the great fossil beds of the world, China is up there, and nowhere else on earth can boast as many fossilized dinosaur footprints.
However people might expect to find them in a remote desert, not among the tables of a courtyard eatery in a modern city.
The footprints belonged to a pair of sauropods—giant long-necked dinosaurs like brontosaurus that rivaled large whales for their length and weight. Found in a restaurant in Leshan, Sichuan Province, the establishment had been made atop farmland where the prints had been buried under soil.
Lida Xing, a paleontologist and associate professor at the China University of Geosciences, told USA TODAY reporting on the story that he and his team confirmed the existence of the footprints via 3D scans of the floor.
They are believed to have been made 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, the last era of the dinosaurs before the Earth was struck by an asteroid around 65 million years ago. The animals were reckoned at 26 feet, or around 12 meters in length.
The restaurant owner has closed off the area of his eating space while research is being conducted.
China’s always rapid development means that paleontologists like Dr. Xing don’t always have the opportunity to survey areas before they are built on, so he recognizes the rare opportunity there in the back of the restaurant.