Book Hunters Go Fossil Freaky

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We took a little detour from our book scouting a few weeks ago, and instead of searching for dusty tomes, we went off to a quarry to do some fossil hunting!  Is this book-related, you ask?  Oh, YES.  This book was a big part of the inspiration for our hunt (see below).  I pulled it off a shelf one quiet evening and started reading.  Just goes to show you a book can set you off on some wild adventures:

Fossils in America, by Jay Ellis Ransom (Harper & Row, NY, 1964)

Fossils in America, by Jay Ellis Ransom (Harper & Row, NY, 1964)

20140907_144734_resizedThe book is a wonderful introduction to the fascinating study of prehistoric life, and an exhaustive guide to the major fossil collecting sites in all fifty states.

Who knew that one of the top fossil hunting sites in America was just 60 miles from us?  The Penn Dixie Paleontological and Outdoor Education Center in Blasdell, NY is owned and operated by the Hamburg Natural History Society, Inc. and is on the site of a former quarry operation that was once the source of calcareous shale excavated and used for cement aggregate by the Penn Dixie Cement Company.  The Geological Society of America ranked it the No. 1 fossil park in the country in 2011.

Inspired as we are for any good hunt, we packed a lunch, our digging tools, and lots of water…

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and set off for a day of fossil hunting fun.  For just $7 (adults) or $6 (children), you can spend the whole day scouting for fossils and keep everything you find.  And believe me, there are plenty of fossils…you WILL find them.

Ready for a day's fossil hunting

Ready for a day’s fossil hunting

We were greeted at the entrance by knowledgeable and friendly staff.  You can strike off on your own or there are some enthusiastic college-age guides available to help you track down fossils and enlighten you on what you find.

Entrance to Penn Dixie fossil site

Entrance to Penn Dixie fossil site

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It is said that they will never run out of fossils at Penn Dixie.  Visitors come from all over the country.   We met a nice antique dealer with a fossil fetish from Maryland who was digging near us, hammer and bucket in hand.

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It was a lovely summer Saturday when we were there, and it was not crowded — just peppered with a nice amount of interesting people.  There are a few shaded areas for lunching…

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There is great information on sign boards, explaining the layers of earth and the fossils to be found there.  Here is a sampling of information…

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And now let me show you what we found!  We had a fabulous day at Penn Dixie, and a successful hunt.  Here are some of the fossils we brought home:

Trilobite from Penn Dixie fossil site.  Trilobites are extinct arthropods… distant relatives of modern lobsters, horseshoe crabs and spiders. They lived from the Lower Cambrian Period (521 million years ago) to the end of the Permian (240 million years ago.)

Trilobite from Penn Dixie fossil site. Trilobites are extinct arthropods… distant relatives of modern lobsters, horseshoe crabs and spiders. They lived from the Lower Cambrian Period (521 million years ago) to the end of the Permian (240 million years ago.)

Brachiopod found at Penn Dixie.  Brachiopods have an extensive fossil record, first appearing in rocks dating back to the early part of the Cambrian Period, about 525 million years ago.

Brachiopod found at Penn Dixie. Brachiopods have an extensive fossil record, first appearing in rocks dating back to the early part of the Cambrian Period, about 525 million years ago.

Fossilized coral attached to rock from Penn Dixie site

Fossilized coral attached to rock from Penn Dixie site

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coral imbedded in a rock

shell fossil

shell fossil

 

Here’s a whole table-full of our finds…

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If you go, take water, it is HOT in the quarry on a sunny summer day.  Wear a hat, and comfortable sturdy shoes.   You don’t have to have tools ( you will find fossils just laying around), but it does help.  A hand spade, a hammer and chisel are good.  Maybe some goggles if you plan to split rocks.  Find hours and directions on their website…it is a quiet, out-of-the way location that you wouldn’t even suspect was there.  A fabulous find!!

 

 

 

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