A Possible Source for the Fossil Horse Teeth

Mental images of the fresh breaks on one of the reconstructed fossil horse teeth kept reoccurring, why fresh breaks?  It was postulated that the locations of the fossil horse teeth were the result of secondary deposition and were no longer in their original depositional environment when recovered, based on soil compaction and tooth orientation.  After revisiting the site and removing the loose unconsolidated soil from a much larger area several additional tooth fragments were located on the other side of the small drainage (to the south and at a slightly higher elevation) and at the base of spoil from the construction of the road.  Painted Pony Road must predate the construction of the original estate in the mid 2000's and must be at least 8 years old.  A quick check of Google Earth's historical satellite imagery shows no road in 1997 but a road in 2003, yielding a minimum age of 10 years.  The road is cut down to the hard pan subsoil and is regularly maintained, once a year grading by the home owners association and the rest of the time by the Painted Pony Resort.  It is likely that the original road work cut into the horse skull and in the process broke the tops of several teeth.  The material including the teeth was then bladed off to the side going unnoticed.  During the intervening decade the 2 yearly rainy seasons recovered the teeth until a small arroyo began developing uncovering the fossilized teeth for a second time.  A walk of the road revealed no recognizable bone or teeth but a large concentration of small fragments of a whitish material.  If this is additional fossilized bone the rest of the skeleton is probably lost due to road traffic and maintenance.  Unfortunate, but at least some fragments were recovered and will make a nice addition to the historical context of the resort moving the timeline of activity on the landscape back at least 12,000 years.

fresh breaks on teeth
Fresh breaks on the surface of fossil horse teeth (left) and 2 intact teeth (right).
Addendum: Additional material on fossil horses in the southwest may be found here.


  1. So much history in this valley.

  2. Quite right, and much of it undiscovered. If I can find evidence of extinct horses while working on check dams along the road just imagine what else is awaiting discovery.