Just what are fossils?
Where can you find them?
How do you dig them?
What do you do with them?
Are they worth anything?
How, where and when do you display them?
These are all good questions and we will answer some of these questions, further down on this page.
You may also visit our Articles page and from there find interesting articles on natural science you may want to review.
On this page are LINKS to fossil pages on this website, including by geological age; category; location; places & trips; and other links.
You may want to compare some specimens on fossil pages with the same or similar current or recent specimens on those pages. A good example is fossil shells, which often appear very similar to shells found on the beaches today, while others are extinct and/or quite different.
Before we discuss fossils, here are some links to pages on fossils which you can reach by clicking on the site title below:
Fossils are scattered throughout the PMNS website. Hence we are providing two lists which you may use to locate certain types of fossil, either by geological age OR by the type of fossils (sometimes both).
Here is a listing of fossils by category and/or places:
Here is a listing of fossils by Geological
(these are in alphabetical order, not chronological order)
Click here, to view the Geological Time Table.
WHAT ARE FOSSILS?
Fossils are the evidence of things which lived long ago. Fossilization or petrification can be accomplished by various means. Some things we call fossils are actually almost identical to their status while alive, such as many fossil shells. Usually fossilification is a process where certain minerals replace the fossil's original material. A good example is petrified wood. The wood is replaced, cell by cell, with minerals which may be silicon and other minerals, to give the petrified wood the beautiful colors which it often has. It may also become opalized. Some fossilification is by drying, such as mummified things in desert areas. Some fossilization is done in regions which are anaerobic, which means there is no oxygen to aid in the deterioration of the item. Some fossils are entombed in amber and remain essentially just as they were before being trapped and entombed. Therefore fossil is a generic term for things which have been preserved for long periods of time, by many means.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND FOSSILS?
The answer is, almost anywhere that there is a sedimentary formation. A sedimentary formation is a layer of the Earth's cover which accumulated over time. It may be dirt, mud, debris which may form shale, then slate in time; it may be shells and other calcereous (i.e. CaCO3 or calcium carbonate) living things or silicon, and other living things, which may form limestone and marble; or plants, trees other Plant Kingdom living things, to make peat and coal. These layers gradually build up by the action of wind, water, and other means. Most sedimentary formations are in horizontal layers (except where the action of the Earth's crust has thrust them upward or diagonally).
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A FOSSIL?
That is like asking how long is a piece of string. Fossilification can be fairly rapid or it may be hundreds of millions of years and still not be fully fossilized. A good example is when your PMNS Curator digs at Florissant, Colorado which is lower Oligocene fossils (approx. 35,000,000). While you find fossil leaves and insects, where the item is now a carbon residue, you can find pieces of wood in the same matrix which crumbles, but appears to still be pretty much wood. For more information on how to tell the age of formations, and hence fossils in those formations, please read Terry Proctor's award-winning article "Showing your Age" which appeared in the BackBenders Gazette.
HOW DO YOU DIG FOR FOSSILS?
Digging for fossils can be so varied that the subject can not in this short space be covered. Finding fossils can be as easy as picking up shark teeth on a sandbar or as difficult as having to use power equipment to extract fossils locked into the matrix which surrounds them. We will shortly have a page on fossil hunting where we will cover a good bit of information on this area.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH FOSSILS?
What do you WANT to do with fossils? In short, this question has many answers, as do some of the other questions on this page. You can display them privately (such as at home or in your office) or publicly (such as in a museum, lobby where the firm allows displays, at shows, at meetings and many other places). In short, it pretty much up to you how much or how little you want to show off your fossils and how you want to do it. It is usually free, but there are instances where a charge is made to view fossils (museums usually charge a small entrance fee for instance--not all are FREE museums, like the PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE).
HOW, WHERE AND WHEN CAN YOU PUBLICLY DISPLAY
The best answer to this question is to talk with your local fossil, gem & mineral club. Houston Gem & Mineral Society has a Fall Show, open to the PUBLIC in September each year. Presently the show is held at the Humble Civic Center, in Humble, Texas, just North of Houston, and just off U.S. Highway 59 North. You can also inquire of groups in your area. Many would probably welcome you to show off your collection.
WHAT IS THE GEOLOGICAL TIME SCALE?
There is a Geologic Time Table which gives the ages of the various periods of time. These periods have been somewhat arbitrarily divided--but such time periods are certainly not wholly arbitrary. There are cataclysmic events which have so changed the Earth as to make such divisions logical.
WHAT IS A PSEUDO FOSSIL?
There are fossils of all kinds and there are "Pseudo fossils". What are they? They are things which look like fossils, but are not. If you want to learn more, click on the table above or here on Pseudo fossils.
WHAT IS AN INDEX FOSSIL?
Index fossils are fossils which give scientists an indication of the age of the layer in which the index fossils are found.
They are fossils which are pretty specific to a given geological age, but are widely dispersed so that when you find that fossil anywhere in the World, a scientist has a pretty good idea of the age of that strata, layer or formation.
This page is still under construction and the connections to some other pages has not yet been made. Our apology for the moment.