The Muslim farmer from the northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region had never thought in his wildest dream that he could become discoverer of the so-called "national treasure", excavation of which was televised live to all Chinese people by the China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday afternoon.
Ma Yun had been catching hedgehogs on a hill of the Lingwu City in April 2004, when he came up with a "brown stone", the diameter of which is some 20 centimeters. He believed that the stone resembled an enormous "limb of some animal", but none of his acquaintances he dragged to the spot was convinced, until five months later he contacted the Lingwu Bureau of Cultural Relics and was told the "stone" could be something more precious: fossil of dinosaur.
"I have guessed that," said the contented farmer, who was so excited to appear on TV that he cut his long hair.
It was the maiden live broadcast of dinosaur fossil excavation in China. Fossils of a new dinosaur species were being unearthed in the Lingwu City of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, while hundreds of kilometers away in the Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Asia's largest Mamenchisaurus came out of the ground.
"We make this live broadcast because the fossils are so precious," said Xu Xing, 37-year-old archaeologist and researcher with the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), who was invited as guest by CCTV.
Eight sauropods, or huge, long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs living in the middle Jurassic period some 160 million years ago, were unearthed in a 3,000-square meter area in Lingwu, said professor Xu.
Twenty-eight teeth lay in order on the ground. Xu noted that a skull might be underneath.
Experts have also found a 1.1-meter-tall backbone, the biggest ever excavated in Asia.
Professor Xu, who has named 15 new dinosaur species, believes that the dinosaur is a sub-species of diplodocus, mainly found in the southern hemisphere in places like Tanzania and Argentina. Other diplodocus fossils have been found in North America.
Discovery of the species in Asia could support the Continental Drift Theory, according to which the African, American and Asian continents used to be connected, Xu said.
The fossils could also help experts make out the geological change of northwest China, as Xu noticed some bones had been washed away in this arid area. He believed that the spot might be a delta millions of years ago.
Sauropod used to be the biggest dinosaur on land in the Jurassic period. They could grow up to 40 meters long and over 100 tons heavy.
More fossils could be found at the spot, said experts.
Questions are raised over death of the mammoth creature. "It is rare to find so many dinosaurs, with varying sizes, dead together," said Mo Jinyou, professor with the Guangxi Natural Museum who helped with the excavation in Lingwu. Mo guessed that death of the dinosaurs could be caused by some "unnatural reasons".
The fossils will be preserved on the spot, where a museum shall be built, according to Wang Jun, vice director with the Publicity Department of Lingwu.
Meanwhile, a national geological park featuring wood and dinosaur fossils opened in Changji in Xinjiang on Saturday, where the largest dinosaur in Asia has just been unearthed.
The dinosaur, 35 meters in length, is five meters longer than the current "No. 1 dinosaur in Asia", which was discovered by a Sino-Canadian archaeological team in 1987 and displayed in the Natural Museum in Beijing.
In 1902, China dug out its first dinosaur fossil in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. In 1979, a cluster of dinosaur fossils was found in southwestern Sichuan Province's Zigong City, where located a dinosaur museum and now houses the complete fossils of more than 100 dinosaurs.
At present, the amount of dinosaur fossils unearthed in China is the third largest in the world. They have been classified into over 100 categories.
Experts are asking the public to suggest names for the dinosaurs. Many people believed that the dinosaur in Lingwu should be named after the discoverer Ma Yun.
While Ma Yun has named his son as "Xiao Long", which is the name of a kind of dinosaur, after his discovery. "It is the tallest dinosaur," he said.