Do you know where to find the rocks which contain fossils, how to recognise them, or how to crack them, whether what you are doing is legal, whether the location is safe, what you’ve found if you do stumble across something or what to do with it once you have it?
Let’s say you just go to a beach and pick up a fossil, pop it in your rucksack and take it home. Imagine, a few weeks or months later, that dusty old fossil on a shelf at home, forgotten and just another bit of clutter…
But what if you’d done a bit of research before you went fossil hunting, found out about the geology of the site and which fossils you might find there? What if you were armed with a bit of knowledge and something to identify your finds? What if you’d recorded where you found it, the type of rock it came from and what other fossils were visible nearby?
Think about it… when you find a fossil, you’re the first person to have held it. Its been buried for millions of years, a piece of a big prehistoric puzzle that can give us a glimpse of planet earth when it was populated with all kinds of fascinating plants and animals, that are now extinct! RECORD and RESEARCH what you find and you are piecing together the jigsaw.
This is the difference between just finding a fossil and taking it home, and recording and researching it. Instead of having one puzzling piece of a jigsaw you have the complete finished picture!
Fossil hunting is a skill that takes time and patience to acquire!
There’s much more to fossil hunting than just hitting rocks with a hammer and hoping for the best!
There’s no easy way to tell you how to recognise a fossil, let alone how to crack it from the rock it’s in. The best way is to find someone who knows how to do it and get them to show you. You could do this by joining a club or society or by going on a reputable fossil hunting tour.
Go out with an open mind and expect the unexpected!
Where can I find a fossil?!?
They can be found all over the world if you look in the right places. The less visited places are where you are likely to find the more interesting fossils (maybe even something completely new). Keep your eyes open as you’re walking around on hills, along streams and on beaches where layers of rock are exposed. All sorts of interesting things can turn up.
What equipment will I need?
The basic fossil collector’s field kit consists of the following items:
- Suitable clothing and footwear (depending on the location and weather).
- A hard hat .
- Safety goggles.
- A geological hammer and/or lump hammer and stone chisel.
- A hand lens or magnifying glass.
- A notepad and pen/pencil.
- Plastic finds bags and bubble wrap.
- A bag to carry all your equipment and your fossil finds.
Here are some top tips on how to get more involved in palaeontology:
Visit museums and look at there displays and collections – this is a great way to discover what fossils are found in particular locations, how they relate to the local geology (the environment they lived in), and how to identify them. Some museums will also have geologists and/or palaeontologists, who can help you, learn more.
Read a few books – books are a great way of improving your general knowledge of the subject and giving you a better understanding of what you will see in a museum or out and about at fossil sites. There are books to suite all ages and levels of expertise, which will do everything from helping you to identify the geology that particular fossils are found in and their locations, to how to identify one fossil from another.
Join a society or club – There are lots of local geological societies who cater for all ages and levels of expertise. This is a great way to get actively involved in the subject, go out on field trips and meet other amateurs or professionals, and learn from them and share knowledge.
Go out fossil hunting – This is the best way to engage with the subject and learn more, it’s also one of the most fun parts of palaeontology. However BEFORE you do this you SHOULD read the ‘Getting actively involved panel’ which will explain how to go about fossil hunting.
Fossil hunting at Saltwick Bay, Whitby, United Kingdom
As you discovered on the previous page [above on this blog] fossil hunting is a skill which can only be learned through many hours of searching for fossils and training your eyes to spot unusual and strange shapes and structures.
Saltwick Bay near Whitby in the U.K. is known for hundreds of fossil finds, some include a huge variety of ammonites including, Hildoceras, Dactylioceras and Harpoceras. Several unusual fossil finds occur all along the Yorkshire coast and at Saltwick Bay, some major finds have included marine reptile remains such as crocodilians, plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs, dinosaur footprints and plants have also been discovered from the terrestrial (land) deposits.
[Images have been removed from palaeocritti site (and were not Nobu Tamura's property anyway) but descriptions are:]
- Image above: Saltwick Bay looking east (right-hand side).
- Looking west from the top of Saltwick Bay (left-hand side).
- Peter Robinson of the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery is fully equipped for fossil hunting. The tide is just on its way out, always remember to check the tide times when fossil hunting along the coast.
- Dean Lomax looks for fossils in the shingle that had been washed around and deposited on the foreshore. The shingle is the best place to look for, and find fossils.
- John Robinson, an avid fossil collector searches for fossils washed underneath the cliff face. Note that he is wearing a helmet.
- A large cliff fall at Saltwick Bay (left-hand side) will obviously uncover several interesting fossils. Remember! DO NOT run up the newly formed talus pile as it is continually breaking up, and you never know when the next lot will come crashing down. Wait for the tide to do its job and wash the newly formed pile around, the fossils will be easier to find and much, much safer!
- Dean is resting on a huge slab which has at least two individual dinosaur footprints represented. The specimen dates to the Aalenian Stage of the Jurassic Period. Note the large three toed footprint underneath his right knee probably from a theropod or ornithopod dinosaur. The other is much harder to spot, it is in the centre of the picture at the bottom much more of a squashed rounded shape, probably from a sauropod perhaps Cetiosaurus?.
Want to find out even more? Click any of the links below:
- 1.General fossil books
- 2. Fossil identification books
- 3. Websites for identification and fossil hunting localities
- 4. Societies and Clubs
If you get into the clubs and societies and go fossil hunting, you can expect to get involved with lots of Evolutionists and of being a minority of one. A situation I am familiar with, and I know the strain./HGL