CRANBERRY TWP — It's not every day you have a chance to see a 70 million-year-old dinosaur fossil complete with 60 razor-sharp teeth, but that's just what the Cranberry Library was offering Saturday.
The ancient skull came from the Tarbosaurus, a cousin of the more-famous Tyrannosaurus Rex. The public will have a limited opportunity to see the relic since it will soon be shipped back to China to be put on display.
Scientists recently unearthed the massive Tarbosaurus fossil in Mongolia and shipped it to Johnstown, where specialist Mike Sincak reconstructed the skull.
Sincak is a friend of Alex Gladis, an anthropology instructor and lead administrator for the BC3@Cranberry campus.
Gladis was to present the skull of the 6-ton carnivore during a lecture at the Cranberry Public Library from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Gladis also planned to sign copies of his recent book dealing with a wide range of fossils.
Gladis is a bit of a fossil nut. He estimates he owns tens of thousands of specimens and also has more than 300 “trophy fossils.”
He spoke Tuesday in front of a large display in the lobby of the Cranberry campus as students came by to peruse the fossils or snap their pictures with the Tarbosaurus skull.
Gladis, who has taught anthropology for more than 30 years, said he's given more than 600 lectures to children, clubs and other organizations throughout the years.
He's never thought of charging for the lectures, because he says the smiles and questions of children are the only payment he needs.
“If young children get excited about learning, it launches them into a world of curiosity,” he said. “And when you're curious, you learn.”
Fossils are perhaps his biggest passion, a passion recognized by Sincak when he decided to lend Gladis the ancient skull to use for the presentation.
But the fossils on display Saturday at the library are only the “tip of the iceberg” of the family collection, according to Gladis' wife, Sandy.
He spoke enthusiastically about this display around the large Tarbosaurus, a display that includes fossils from all over the world, ranging from China and Africa to Europe and Pennsylvania.
Gladis proudly showed his fossils of dinosaur feces and eggs, and spoke about how Western Pennsylvania used to be a jungle.
He said there are few better things in life than getting other people interested in and excited about his passion. After all, these fossils provide the best link in helping humans understand what came before them.
“These little rocks here tell the history of the Earth,” Gladis said. “Without them we'd have no clue of what came before mankind.”
For now, Gladis is enjoying the ancient skull while it's in his possession.
He'll soon return it by car to Johnstown, which begs the question: How do you transport a 70 million-year-old skull complete with 60 razor-sharp teeth?
“Very carefully,” he said with a smile.