Fossil Dig

Norman Barstowby:  Norman Barstow

Simulated Fossil Dig

Archeology is the study of society through the discovery, recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that humans have left behind. The data can include artifacts, architecture, and cultural landscapes. Paleontology is the scientific study of prehistoric life.  It includes the study of fossils to determine organisms’ evolution and interactions with each other and their environments.  Most readers will recognize fictionalized accounts of the action and adventures in the pursuit of archeological or paleontological discovery from such blockbuster films as ‘Indiana Jones’ or ‘Jurassic Park’.  While this exercise may not feature the nonstop action and Hollywood fanfare of those films, it is still a fun and valuable classroom activity, not to mention much less expensive.


The student will:

  • Practice fossil preparation skills using real tools and techniques by removing real fossils from an artificial matrix.
  • Be able to explain the difference between a chunk (broken piece) of fossil and a complete fossil bone.
  • Be able to list reasons why broken fossils are more common in nature than complete fossils.


* Plastic butter tubs (1 per student) OR larger plastic trays (for a student group).

* Sand (use contractor or play sand, clean, with no pebbles)

* Fossil Sorting Kit from Educational InnovationsFossil Dig Kit

* Potting soil (to add to matrix mixture and to cover the completed matrix).

* Plaster

* Water (sink)

* Bucket

* Stirring stick

* Small rocks and pebbles (per tub/tray) to add reality to the scene.

* Dental picks (w/erasers on one end, 1 per student) or dental picks with handles **

* Plastic knife

* Toothbrush or other stiff brush. (1 per student)

* Plastic trays (1 per student)

* Ziploc bags (1 per student)

* Permanent markers (1 or more)

* Pith helmet (optional)

**  Available from the Widget Supply Company

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