On a cool September morning in 2010 my crew and I began our daily descent from camp back into deep time, walking single file down a steep, knife-edge ridge of sandstone and mudstone in southern Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Each of us carried water, a field notebook, lunch, a rock hammer and other hand tools. Heavier tools and materials—rock saws, picks, shovels, bags of plaster and swaths of burlap—awaited us half a mile away at the dig site. Even from the hilltop we could easily see the plaster jackets down in the quarry—alabaster beacons in a wilderness of arid, gray-striped badlands. Some of the irregular lumps were not much bigger than a loaf of bread. Others spanned 10 feet and tipped the scales at more than a ton. All contained the bony remains of animals that coexisted here 76 million years ago.