CT scan reveals egg’s content: A dinosaur!
BY JIM HALL
Jon Bachman has owned a dinosaur egg for 28 years, and he has long wondered if there was anything inside.
Did his fossil contain embryonic material? Was there a 70 million-year-old baby dinosaur inside?
Bachman, 66, is the public events manager at Stratford Hall and a self-described “active amateur paleontologist.”
To answer his questions, he had to look inside the egg, either with a CT scan or by cracking it open. Neither idea was practical, so he learned to live with his mystery.
Then one of his friends intervened, and Bachman last week put the egg in a cardboard box and took it from his home in Stafford County for only the third time.
He brought it to the Regional Cancer Center at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, where Dr. John Chinault and the cancer center staff did a CT scan of it.
“It was the first time I’ve ever done anything other than a human,” said Chinault, radiation oncologist.
In the scan, the egg appears as a gray oval marked by slashes of white. Chinault said the white lines were familiar to him as pieces of bone. Bachman agreed.
The flecks were evidence of a never-born dinosaur, compressed, scattered and fossilized within the shell over millions of years, he said.
“I still really can’t believe it,” he said.
Bachman purchased the egg for $600 at a rock show in Hampton in 1984.
The egg quickly assumed a treasured place in his fossil collection, beside the thousands of bones, teeth and footprint casts that he has gathered from mostly local sites over 30 years.
The egg is grayish blue, checkered with cracks and contains fossilized pieces of the mud that once covered it. It is 6 inches wide and 7 inches long and, at 5 pounds, has the heft of a river rock.
Bachman has pieced together a kind of back story about the egg, an educated guess as to its origins.
He believes that it belonged either to a Therizinosaurus or a Saurolophus, two birdlike dinosaurs about the size of an ostrich.
He believes that it dates to the late Cretaceous Period, about 70 million years ago.
And he suspects that it came from a nesting site in Henan province in China.
Dinosaur eggs are rare but not uncommon. Several are advertised on eBay for $400 to $700 each.
China today regulates the export of its historic relics, but Bachman believes that his purchase was legal at the time.
Last week’s CT scan came about when the Rev. Gay Rahn, associate rector at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, brought her granddaughter, Keira, to Bachman’s house to see his fossil collection.
After hearing about the egg, Rahn introduced Bachman to Chinault at the cancer center.
Chinault said he was curious and volunteered to scan the egg for free as a kind of community service.
“It was very exciting for me,” he said. “Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve loved dinosaurs.”
Chinault said the scan took about 10 minutes. A dozen people, including Bachman and Rahn, were huddled in the control room when the images began to emerge.
Chinault said that when it became apparent that the egg had a prize inside, Bachman got excited.
“He was like a 10-year-old,” Chinault said. “It was great.”
Jim Hall: 540/374-5433