Monmouth County Discoveries

June 20, 2014
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Dinoguy1-IMG_0850By John Burton

RED BANK ­– Glenn Harbour believes archeological and paleontological finds are here for the taking.

Over the course of his time hunting for artifacts, Harbour, a Freehold resident who has been digging and sifting for 40 years, has accumulated more than 1,000 finds.

Now, about 10 percent of them are on display at the Red Bank Public Library through next March. The display includes a number of Native American items, such as arrowheads and pottery shards, as well as fossils and sharks teeth.

Some of the items unearthed in Holmdel, Colts Neck, Marlboro and the Shark River area are tens of thousands – maybe even millions – of years old, he said.

“There is just a plethora of items that are accessible in Monmouth County,” Harbour said.

The region was a coastal plain area at the time of the Cretaceous Period, going back about 75 millions of years, rich in aquatic life.

“Jersey is one of the best places to go artifact hunting,” Harbour said, “and Monmouth County is like the epicenter of Jersey.”

It was in a West Long Branch dump some years back that he discovered the tooth of an otodus obliquus, a giant mackerel shark – now on display in the library – that, he said, was about 60 million years old.

The area during that time period had a lot of sediment “which is good for quick burial and fossilization,” said David Parris, curator of natural history for the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.

Monmouth County “is a very rich area” for finding remains and has been the site of some “highly significant specimens,”

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Parris said.

Harbour was responsible for one of the “most extremely important” finds to come out of Monmouth County, according to Parris.

In 2013, Harbour found a 70-percent complete skull of what paleontologists believe was a 1-year-old mastodon. He found the skull while on one of his regular outings in Holmdel, just west of Holmdel Park in the Hop Brook area.

Through radiocarbon dating scientists believe the mastodon lived 11,680 years ago and were even able to determine its cause of death. Studying the pitting in the skull, Harbour said, it was consistent with pachyderm tuberculosis. “They solved a 12,000-year-old cold case,” he said.

This discovery was quite a coup for an amateur, he said. “Let’s call this a paleontological feather in the cap of Monmouth County.”

He donated his discovery to the state museum. “It’s going to live in New Jersey, because it came from New Jersey,” he said.

“It’s a highly significant thing, Glenn’s mastodon discovery,” according to Parris.

While Harbour said those at the state museum consider him an avocational paleontologist, he has always considered himself “an amateur scientist.”

Harbour, who owns a home contracting business, grew up in Holmdel.

“When I was young I became interested in looking for things,” he said, sifting through creek beds searching out Native American items or whatever turned up, during his high school years in the mid-‘70s. He maintained that interest, studying archeology, reading voraciously, because “knowledge is the key. You have to know what you’re looking for.”

In the 1990s, after a stint out of state, he started revisiting his “old haunts.”

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It’s gotten a little more difficult to pursue his passion because many of the locations where he likes to search are now county-owned parkland, where digging is prohibited and he has to be careful not to trespass on private property.

Age is also an issue, as Harbour, now in his mid-50s, concedes it will only get tougher to do this, as he gets older. But until then, he’ll keep looking.

“Every second I’m in the field, I covet because I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “But as long as I can, I’ll soldier on.

“It’s pretty much an obsession,” he said.


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