Home Archaeology40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
ArchaeologyBy Trista -

TheyUntold numbers of fossils representing billions of years of geologic history are preserved around the planet. Though large and heavy dinosaur bones tend to be the most visible examples, fossils can take many forms. Fossilization is a process that occurs when, instead of bones decaying through natural means, they become embedded in layers of rock and petrify. Fossils can represent microscopic creatures, animals with no bones at all, preserved internal organs, and traces of hair, skin, and feathers. They can even offer evidence of ancient animals’ behavior in impressions of footprints or burrows or as individuals trapped in amber. They are snapshots of life in scenes from the distant past.

In addition to offering tantalizing glimpses of animals that went extinct millions of years ago, fossils also reveal the ancient world they once inhabited. Each precious find is another tiny piece in the vast puzzle of Earth’s geologic history and helps scientists understand how life on this planet evolved and changed over billions of years. In some cases, fossils tend to be conserved in the strangest way and in the most unusual places we could imagine. Many paleontologists have been digging and discovering fossils in different geographical locations from the 17th century to the present day. Knowing when and where the oldest fossils of various species appeared gives us new details about the planet’s evolutionary tree.

Rare and impressive as they may be, not all fossils are equally famous or have had the same profound effect on paleontology and our understanding of life during these remote times. In the case of dinosaurs, they represent the most incredible creatures that ruled the planet for more than 160 million years. Fortunately, thanks to fossils, substantial evidence behind our image on Earth, we have a good source of information about prehistoric life. Read on to check out some of the strangest fossils ever discovered.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This rhino probably died in a volcano eruption that completely dismembered the animal. Credit: Oddee

40. A rhino head weighing 66 pounds. 

In the Cappadocia region of modern Turkey, scientists have uncovered the fossilized remains of a giant rhinoceros who probably lived about nine million years ago. What is even more remarkable than its size is the fact that this rhino probably died in a volcano eruption. Usually, eruptions incinerate all organic matter, so only 2% of fossils are found in volcanic deposits. This skull was probably baked by the extreme temperatures – nearly 1000 degrees Fahrenheit – and then became fossilized inside the ash and other residues. The ancient rhino’s head and jaw have a rough surface and brittle teeth. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A saber-toothed squirrel is the stuff of nightmares. Credit: Oddee

39. The fossil of a saber-toothed squirrel that lived among dinosaurs.

You’ve heard of saber-toothed tigers. If you lived in a prehistoric jungle, you would know pretty well to stay away from them. However, what about a much smaller, stealthier, and harder-to-spot saber-toothed squirrel? This creature was probably about six inches long and had features similar to Scrat, the Ice Age series’s squirrel. Scientists had hypothesized the existence of this creature as a means of closing gaps in the fossil record. Then they found the fossil of the head of a saber-toothed squirrel in Argentina, giving them a specimen that they could work on. It lived about 100 million years ago, making it one of the small mammals that likely lived alongside dinosaur populations. Scientists believe that this creature has more in common with modern marsupials than with squirrels.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Rhinos and other exotic mammals once dominated the British Isles. Credit: Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

38. They discovered a rhino fossil in England. 

When you think about hot spots for rhino activity, your mind probably drifts to rivers and savannas in Africa, not the green hills and cliffs of Great Britain. However, analyses of fossilized bones found in the Kirkdale Cave reveal that hyenas, rhinos, mammoths, and other exotic creatures roamed the English countryside. The bones were initially thought to be of dead cattle, but scientists discovered that they were of ancient mammals when analyzed. The cave is too small for large animals to fit into, so the most likely explanation is that it was home to a group of hyenas. The hyenas killed their prey and brought it into the cave, where the bones were deposited and became fossilized.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Emperor penguins today are half the size as their prodigious forbears. Credit: Oddee

37. In Peru, there was a 130-pound penguin fossil.

Giant penguins are now extinct, but the fossil record indicates that one particular genus that inhabited Peru, known as Inkayacu paracasensis, lived about 36 million years ago. These whoppers weighed as much as 130 pounds! They were nearly twice as big as today’s emperor penguins and almost certainly had prodigious appetites. The fossil found in Peru shows the flipper and feather shapes that make penguins such powerful swimmers evolved early. These penguins would have eaten fish that swam in a now-vanished equatorial sea. The extinct giant penguins generally had larger, more elongated bills, which made catching fish easier. This adaptation would undoubtedly be necessary; otherwise, they might not have been able to find enough fish to feed their massive bodies! 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A spider trying to have its lunch became locked in amber. Credit: Oregon State University/flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

36. An unearthed fossil from a 100-million-year-old spider. 

Researchers have found trapped in amber a rare dinosaur-age scene of a spider attacking a wasp caught in its web. In the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, somewhere between 97 and 110 million years ago – during the Early Cretaceous Period – a spider, probably surrounded by dinosaurs passing by, was trying to turn an unfortunate fly into lunch. Neither the spider nor the fly emerged from this encounter intact, as they both became locked in an amber prison. Perhaps their scuffle was part of a broader ecosystem embroiled in combat. Maybe they were just both miserable. However, fortunately for us, we now know what spiders looked like 100 million years ago. Unfortunately, both the spider and wasp species are extinct today. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This nest of dinosaur eggs and hatchlings was found in Mongolia. Credit: Oddee

35. There is a fossil nest of 15 protoceratops.

This nest of dinosaur eggs won’t be hatching anytime soon, so there’s no need to be concerned about scientists creating a Jurassic Park type of scenario. In 2011, a scientist at the University of Rhode Island named David Fastovsky described a remarkable find in which 15 young protoceratops, including eggs and hatchlings, were found in a fossilized nest. The find revealed to scientists that the protoceratops remained in the nest for much longer than they had previously thought. The discovery was made in Mongolia and suggested that the parents cared for the young throughout the postnatal period before the young dinosaurs set off on their own.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Mosquitoes belong in amber, not on riverbanks. Credit: John T. Huber & Dale Greenwalt/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

34. Scientists in Montana uncovered a fossilized mosquito reminiscent of Jurassic Park.

In the Jurassic Park books and movies, dinosaurs are brought back from extinction when scientists can isolate dinosaur DNA from the blood of mosquitoes that had been fossilized in amber. They spliced the DNA into frog cells so that they could create dinosaurs in a modern laboratory. In the 1980s, before Michael Crichton published the first Jurassic Park, scientists in Montana discovered a mosquito that had been imprisoned in an amber chamber for 46 million years. The specimen languished before being rediscovered in 2013 by a team that realized the mosquito still had blood inside it. There is little chance of dinosaurs being recreated, though, as the dinosaur DNA in the blood would not survive that long.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Dinosaurs may have actually had feathers. Credit: R.C. McKellarRoyal /Saskatchewan Museum/Collection Loans Policy

33. Scientists discovered a feathered dinosaur tail fossil.

Have you heard the idea that modern-day birds are the descendants of dinosaurs and that dinosaurs may have had feathers? This fossil brings scientists one step closer to conclusively determining whether these monstrous lizards were gigantic birds of prey that roamed the land. The fossil is of the tail of a coelurosaur from about 100 million years ago. Scientists usually only find fossilized bones, which have long been stripped of skin and other appendages, including feathers. But this tail was enclosed in amber, a tomb that preserved the bone and the feathers in remarkably pristine condition. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This ant was about the same size as a hummingbird. Credit: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

32. Can you imagine finding a terrifyingly large ant fossil? 

Giant killer ants are known today to populate parts of Africa, but 50 million years ago, giant ants may have been much more common and widespread. This fossilized giant ant is just over five centimeters long, making it about the same size as a hummingbird. You can see a hummingbird next to the fossil in the picture to give the image some scale. Studying this particular fossil has helped scientists better understand the effects of prehistoric climate change on animal populations, including their growth and dispersal patterns. This specific ant lived during what is known as the Eocene Epoch.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This giant frog would keep a prehistoric home free of vermin. Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

31. Scientists have a fossil of a giant frog that ate dinosaurs.

When you think about frogs, you probably imagine cute yet slimy (possibly icky) creatures that can be found on riverbanks and along the shores of ponds and lakes. However, 68 million years ago, on the island of Madagascar, there lived a giant frog known as Beelzebufo, sometimes known as the devil’s frog, who was over one foot in length. Beelzebufo wasn’t just more massive than today’s frogs. This monster had a bite equal to that of a modern-day wolf, making it strong enough to eat small dinosaurs. It remains one of the most powerful and dangerous amphibians of all time. The frog species, Beelzebufo, is now extinct. However, modern-day South American horned frogs have similar bites to mammalian predators, quite different from their amphibian cousins’ weak jaws. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This dinosaur died and became fossilized while keeping her nest warm. Credit: Steve Starer/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

30. A dinosaur died while incubating her nest.

Dinosaurs and birds likely have much more in common than scientists previously believed. For a long time, it was commonly held that female dinosaurs did not have maternal instincts (and the fathers were absent), abandoning their eggs immediately after laying them. However, recent discoveries have cast doubt on the idea. This fossil was found in the Gobi Desert, a massive wasteland that covers swathes of China and Mongolia. It shows a mother dinosaur keeping her eggs warm while waiting for them to hatch, an activity common to birds. Dinosaurs may not have only had feathers, but some have also had strong maternal instincts. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
One of the woolly mammoths that died in the zero-sum game Credit: Jllm06/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

29. There are two woolly mammoths fossils that show they died in combat.

Woolly mammoths, massive behemoths that were much larger than today’s elephants, frequently sparred with each other in feuds that were often deadly for at least one of the mammoths. Their spars were usually over mating rights with females, and they often fought with their giant tusks. In this fossil, two woolly mammoths had gotten into a fight with each other and somehow came to lock their tusks together. They were unable to get their tusks free, and both of the mammoths died. One of the tusks was lodged in the opponent’s eye socket, making the encounter particularly gory and painful. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
These Megalodon jaws make the shark in Jaws look like a minnow. Credit: Oddee

28. Prehistoric Megalodons have a giant shark bite. 

Did you see the terrifying thriller The Meg? Megalodon sharks were a real thing, and they make the shark in the blockbuster Jaws look like minnows. The famous fossil hunter Vito “Megalodon” Bertucci dedicated his life to understanding these creatures. After finding the pieces of this Megalodon jaw along rivers in South Carolina, Bertucci spent 20 years reconstructing it. It has 182 teeth, some of which are over seven inches long. The entire jaw is 11 feet across and nearly nine feet tall. It is, without a doubt, the most enormous shark jaw ever found. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Encountering a Helicoprion would be the last thing you would ever do. Credit: preview.turbosquid.com

27. They unearthed the fossil of a shark with a buzzsaw mouth. 

As if a Megalodon wasn’t terrifying enough, a Helicoprion is the stuff of nightmares, or of Shark Week, whichever you prefer. Sharks only have cartilage, meaning that they lack bones that can fossilize. As a result, we only know about ancient sharks from their teeth and jaws. Scientists discovered a fossil of shark teeth in which the teeth circle in a spiral-like pattern. They concluded that it belonged to an ancient type of shark whose lower jaw formed a whorl-like design and would be terrifying to encounter. The sharks would continually grow new teeth, which would push the older teeth outward in a 360-degree spiral that would continue growing throughout their lives.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This pterodactyl died while eating a fish. Credit: Eberhard Frey and Helmut Tischlinger/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

26. A Pterodactyl fossil shows it died in the middle of eating a meal. 

In the days of the dinosaurs, everything was more extreme than it was now. Giant winged reptiles, known as pterodactyls, roamed the skies, while massive fish – think of those you see in science fiction movies like Star Wars – swam in the waters. Also, the pterodactyls frequently swooped down to catch giant fish for dinner. In this fossil, a pterodactyl had detected a pterosaur to feast on. However, the pterosaur was probably too big for the pterodactyl and probably bit the pterodactyl’s wing in the fight to survive. They both died in the encounter and somehow became embedded in the rock to become fossils. Predators and prey are enjoined forever.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
The turtles died while mating. Credit: List25

25. In Germany, scientists found two fossils of mating turtles. 

Two turtles in the area that is now western Germany were mating with each other in a volcanic lake. They must have sunk gradually into the lake, into a layer of sand that would have been toxic to them, while still engaged in the mating ritual. The two turtles died together and became fossilized under the lakebed. Their skeletons were well-preserved by the toxic waters of the lake and the volcanic sediment underneath. “Till death do us part” seems to be a true statement for these two animals that may not have even realized what was happening and did not try to escape.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This eye had upwards of 3000 lenses, significantly more than other animals at the time. Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr

24. They discovered a 500-million-year-old fossil of an eye. 

Half a billion years ago, a creature, possibly a fly or related insect, had an eye that became fossilized, while the rest of the beast decayed away. The eye was discovered in southern Australia and revealed that some prehistoric creatures might have had remarkably better vision than previously believed. This eye had over 3,000 lenses, meaning that there were 3,000 surfaces for absorbing light. The unknown creature that saw through this eye probably had extraordinary eyesight and was able to see its prey – or predator – from a far distance. It had a distinct evolutionary advantage, but we don’t know what kind of creature it was.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This fossil shows a Velociraptor attacking its would-be prey. Credit: Yuya Tamai/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

23. A Velociraptor attacking its prey would be an intimidating sight. 

If you have seen Jurassic Park, you probably know that velociraptors are puny than the giant T-Rex. Still, they were voracious carnivores that could attack and kill with surprising speed, cunning, and agility. They were probably about the same size as turkeys today, not the six-foot-tall killers that the franchise presented. In this fossil, a velociraptor and its prey, a protoceratops, was engaged in a duel that ended badly for both of them. The velociraptor had dealt a lethal blow to the protoceratops, and the protoceratops had responded by breaking the raptor’s arm. However, they both died during the battle, probably when a massive dune collapsed on them and doomed them to become part of the fossil records.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Dimetrodon’s characteristic fin likely helped it remain cool. Credit: List25

22. Texans discovered a dinosaur fossil with built-in temperature control.  

Fossils of the proto-dinosaur known as Dimetrodon have mostly been found in parts of Texas, an area that may have been even hotter during Dimetrodon’s days – 50 million years before the rise of the dinosaurs – than it is now. These massive reptiles could be 15 feet long and weigh 500 pounds, with the males slightly more prominent than the females. The reptile’s distinctive feature is a gigantic fin that spans its body from front to back. The fin was probably a temperature-regulating device, which helped the animal stay cool in the hot climate. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Drawings of different types of sperm. Credit: List25

21. In Antarctica, they found 50-million-year-old sperm. 

What is a stranger about this find, the fact that the sperm was 50 million years old or the fact that it was found in Antarctica? Or the fact that the sperm somehow became fossilized, a process that is usually relegated only to bones and other hard organic matter? This sperm likely came from a type of worm that ejected it out into a kind of cocoon, which kept it safe and allowed it to fossilize. Usually, the sperm and egg would meet inside the cocoon, but in this case, that was not to be. The find reveals much about animal life in prehistoric Antarctica. The fossil could form and survive so long because the sperm became trapped in the jelly-like wall of the Clitellata cocoon before it hardened. There, the creature was fossilized and preserved over millions of years. Though spectacularly well-preserved, the fossilized remains do not contain any organic material, ruling out the prospect of a Jurassic Park-style effort to extract DNA from the material. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Volcano ash helped preserve animal remains. Credit: Internet Multicasting Service

20. Volcano ashes preserved a fossil of a rhino suckling its young. 

Ancient volcano eruptions were much more massive than they are today, and they helped preserve fossils for scientists to investigate now. Very few animal skeletons were preserved directly by these eruptions, incredibly close to the volcano, because the explosions were so hot that the organic matter disintegrated. However, farther away from the blast, ash clouds that led to several feet of ash covering large swathes of land helped preserve skeletons. At a Nebraska site, over 200 skeletons have been found in one location, all of them protected by volcanic ash. One of the structures is of a baby rhino nursing.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
The snake waited patiently until the sauropod had hatched. Credit: List25

19. Can you imagine uncovering the fossil of a snake preparing to eat a baby sauropod? 

Snakes are notorious for eating their prey whole, no matter how big it is, because of how they can dislocate their jaws to force even a substantial meal into their mouths. However, in this case, a prehistoric snake found that it was unable to open its mouth wide enough to eat the dinosaur eggs at the nest that it found. Eager for a meal, the snake probably waited until the eggs hatched so that it could eat the sauropod hatchlings once they broke through their shells. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the snake and the newly-hatched sauropods died in a landslide before the snake could enjoy its dinner.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A pod of whales. Credit: List25

18. Scientists in Virginia discovered ancient narwhals and beluga whales fossils.

Whales today mostly live in cold, northern waters, but some fossil discoveries question whether that has always been the case. Narwhals – whales with a characteristic tusk or “horn” – and beluga whales, in particular, are only found near the Arctic region. However, scientists have found fossils of ancient relatives of today’s narwhals and beluga whales, and they aren’t in the Arctic or the Antarctic. They are in Virginia, where waters are much more temperate. These findings have led them to question why today’s whales live in cold waters. Possible explanations include resource scarcity and changing climates.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
No one can identify what this strange fossil is. Credit: List25

17. An uncovered fossil turned out to be a unidentifiable strange creature with pincers on the end of its nose. 

Illinois has its own state fossil, an egg-shaped rock embedded in it pincers connected to a snout. Also present are a finned tail and two eyestalks. Despite 60 years of observation and analysis since it was first found at Mazon Creek, Illinois, scientists have no idea how to identify this fossil species. The animal seems to be an invertebrate, but it doesn’t fit in with any invertebrate group of currently known animals. The only samples of this mysterious skeleton have been found at Mazon Creek.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
This turtle rivaled dinosaurs in size. Credit: List25

16. They found a fossil belonging to a turtle the size of a helicopter.

In 2005, a doctoral student from North Carolina State University, Edwin Cadena, discovered a specimen while working in the northeast part of Colombia in South America. The sample was part of a turtle whose shell was nearly six feet across and lived about 60 million years ago. The turtle’s jaws would have been so powerful that it would have been able to eat the crocodiles abundant in the rainforests of prehistoric Colombia. It is one of the most massive turtles to have ever lived.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
An artist’s rendition of Titanoboa Credit: News Dinosaurs

15. A 40-foot snake fossil will send your skin crawling. 

If the science fiction movie Anaconda got your heart racing at the thought of giant snakes lurking in the waters, then you definitely would not have wanted to meet Titanoboa. This giant snake lived in Colombia’s rainforests 60 million years ago and could be upwards of 40 feet in length. The Titanoboa fossils were found in the same area of Colombia as the giant turtles, and they both have been dated to the same period – about 60 million years ago, following the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs. These massive reptiles likely lived side by side.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Locals sold off many of the footprints before scientists arrived on the scene. Credit: List25

14. A dinosaur chase in Texas left fossil footprints. 

Glen Rose, Texas is the home of a bizarre sight: a track of dinosaur footprints from when two dinosaurs – a sauropod and a theropod – were in a game of pursuit. The meat-eating theropod was running after the plant-eating sauropod, wanting a nice steak for itself and its family. The footprints become fossilized. When the fossilized footprints were discovered, the local people in Glen Rose began digging them up and selling them off before scientists arrived on the scene. Today, visitors to Glen Rose can see a replica of the dinosaur tracks on the city streets. Fossils continue to be found at the nearby Dinosaur Valley State Park.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Vetulicolia lived in the Middle Cambrian period. Credit: Oddee

13. Sci-Fi filter feeders created fossils to be discovered later.

Vetulicolia is a notoriously tricky species for scientists to pin down. They appear to be the forebears of modern vertebrate species, but they also bear striking resemblances to early arthropods and other animal kingdom groups. This creature is so mysterious and ambiguous that it is the subject of much debate and controversy among scientists. These animals, which swam in the Cambrian-era seas half a billion years ago, may have been the first animals to have a backbone. Their fossils were first discovered a century ago, and the fossils have led scientists to believe that they were filter feeders. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Fossilized poop helps scientists understand much about prehistoric life. Credit: Oddee

12. Fossilized feces from prehistoric animals help scientists do research and get a better understanding of prehistoric animals. 

Though the thought of finding fossilized poop may sound gross to most people, for researchers and scientists studying ancient life forms, prehistoric feces are an absolute gold mine of information. They provide evidence of what the animals ate, their digestive patterns, and even the diseases that may have affected different species. The technical term for fossilized feces is “coprolite,” and coprolite specimens may look much like regular rocks to the untrained eye. These fossils are considered trace fossils, as they give information about the animals’ lifestyles rather than their skeletal systems and other morphological features.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Artist rendition of ancient ichthyosaurs. Credit: List25

11. An Ichthyosaur mother died giving birth and scientists found her fossilized. 

Ichthyosaurs were ancient sea monsters that looked like a cross between a dolphin and a crocodile. They lived about 90 million years ago, and these massive marine animals could be up to 13 feet long. Imagine going out fishing today and reeling one of them in! A surprising find in China revealed an ichthyosaur fossil of a mother who had just given birth, had another baby stuck inside her birth canal, and another one still in her womb. This fossil shows that, though ichthyosaurs were reptiles, they gave birth to live young, like mammals do today. It is the only fossil of its kind that has ever been found. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A mosquito fossil was uncovered in 2013. Smithsonian Insider

10. A unique blood-engorged fossil of a mosquito was discovered in northwestern Montana.

You never know what lies at the bottom of some ordinary pond. You might find junk, or you might find a unique item. In this case, a prehistoric mosquito that was preserved in shale was discovered. The mosquito is estimated to be approximately 46 million years old. While the prehistoric mosquito’s finding was exciting, the substance that was hidden inside the mosquito’s body was considered the most valuable. With the help of a scanning electron microscope and mass spectrometry, a group of scientists was able to find molecules in the blood in the mosquito’s abdomen. This unearthed fossil helped scientists study whether complex molecules such as hemoglobin can survive for millions of years. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A giant turtle is also called Carbonemys cofrinii. SciTech Daily/JA Chirinos

9. In Colombia, they found a giant turtle fossil. 

When you think of a turtle, even the giant kind, you likely don’t picture one the size of a prehistoric turtle, name the Carbonemys cofrinii, or coal turtle. The fossil that was uncovered in 2005 is said to be 60 million years old! This prehistoric turtle’s skull is about nine and a half inches, about the size of an NFL football. Even more impressive than its head’s size is the size of its shell, which measures in at a whopping five feet, seven inches long. The coal turtle’s fossil reveals that it had mighty jaws that helped the omnivore eat anything from mollusks to crocodiles. The giant turtle was coined coal turtle because of where it was discovered: in a coal mine. You wouldn’t have wanted to find yourself in a run-in with this incredible creature. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Do you know what a Megalosaurus looks like? SciTech Daily

8. They discovered a Megalosaurus fossil in England.

Even though the Megalosaurus’ remnants were first discovered in the late 17th century, the fossil was not identified as a Megalosaurus until 150 years later. Unearthed in 1676, a partial femur from the prehistoric creature was excavated in England. An Oxford University professor initially thought it belonged to a giant human. Later, in 1824, British naturalist, William Buckland, gave the species its official name, meaning great lizard. The renowned anatomist who identified the Megalosaurus as a dinosaur in 1842. The Crystal Palace exhibition in London in 1854 included a replica of the dinosaur, one of the first dinosaurs ever to be displayed to the public. The unearthed fossil was said to be 165 million years old. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
They found two human skulls in South Africa in 1967. National Science Organization

7. Ethiopia is home to the oldest known fossils of modern humans. 

Unearthed in 1967, two partial skulls of Homo sapiens were excavated in Ethiopia. The two partial skulls are called Omo I and Omo II. At the time of their excavation, the heads were thought to be around 130,000 years old. However, upon further investigation, it was discovered they were much, much older. More modern dating techniques that were used in 2005 revealed that they were, in fact, about 195,000 years old. The dating techniques agree with the genetic analyses of the modern-day population that suggests Homo sapiens first appeared around a fifth of a million years ago in Africa. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A mammoth fossil was unearthed in Michigan. History

6. In 2015, a soybean farmer had a giant discovery. 

From Michigan, soybean farmer James Bristle hit the jackpot in 2015 when he found the bones of a mammoth. While attempting to install a drainage pipe in his field, his tool struck a fragment of a mammoth’s pelvis. However, this is not Michigan’s first mammoth. At the time of Bristle’s discovery, nearly 30 have been unearthed in Michigan alone. Two years later, researchers have found more than 40 additional bones to complete the woolly Columbian mammoth hybrid that was between 11,700-15,000 years old. Some of the bones found were the skull, tusks, and teeth. Some of the remains were found in pond sediment. Researchers speculate that ancient humans likely butchered the beast and stored part of it at the bottom of the pond for later retrieval. That prompted researchers to study the fungal spores and pollen grains within the sediment to better understand when the species roamed the Earth and when they became extinct. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
One of the unearthed fossils was found in North Carolina. Bone Clones

5. They found a megalodon in 2011. 

In 2011, a rib from a prehistoric whale was found in a North Carolina strip mine. That was not just any typical fossil. The fossilized whale rib was said to be between three and four million years old. The whale rib had three tooth marks on it, which is indicative of a shark attack. The spacing between the marks was two-and-a-half inches apart and enabled scientists to determine that the beast that attacked the whale was a mega-toothed shark called Carcharocles megalodon. North Carolina appears to be the former hotspot of the extinct shark. In addition to the fossil found in the strip mine, a couple strolling on Wrightsville Beach stumbled upon a four-inch-long megalodon tooth. The megalodon is the largest known extinct shark. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Otzi the Iceman was an unearthed fossil. Daily Mail

4. Otzi the Iceman is Europe’s oldest celebrity. 

Unearthed in 1991, the Iceman was fully clothed in a fur jacket and leather shoes when he was recovered in the Otztal Alps near the Italian-Austrian border. Two German tourists discovered the corpse trapped in ice in 1991. After carbon-dating tests, the Iceman was found to be over 5,000 years old and the most well-preserved body ever unearthed from that period. A series of coincidences helped preserve the Iceman for all of these years. His body tissue maintained some of its elasticity due to the moisture from the snow, which later turned into ice. His body was also placed out of range from where the glacier flowed. He was found shortly after the ice surrounding his head, back, and shoulders had thawed, so he could not be exposed to the sun and wind for too long.

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
Fossil remains can help scientists and researchers understand evolution. Smithsonian Institution

3. Scientists claim that the Taung child fossil is almost three million years old. 

In 1924, Raymond Dart discovered one of the earliest human fossils in Africa. He unearthed the skull of what was believed to be a three-year-old child. The discovery of the Taung child in the Republic of South Africa was the first time researchers had come across evidence of an early upright human. The proof that it was a two-legged human was in the position of the spinal cord hole. This discovery was also the first evidence that humans evolved in Africa as opposed to Europe. Researchers hypothesize that an eagle killed the child because of the puncture marks at the bottom of the skull’s eye sockets. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
A long time ago, Italy experienced deadly volcanoes. A mother was protecting her child in this fossilized image. Daily Mail

2. They uncovered volcano victims in Pompeii, Italy.

Pompeii, Italy, is often referred to as the city that was frozen in time. Nearly 2,000 years ago, one of the most well-known volcanoes erupted and wiped out Pompeii and the neighboring towns, including Stabiae, Herculaneum, and Oplonti. Nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the cities in 13 to 20 feet of ash. The population died from the intense heat, gases, and ash. Pompeii was rediscovered during the construction of the palace for the Bourbon royal family in 1748. Surprisingly, the city was still intact and included preserved skeletons of those who had perished when the volcano erupted. Oddly, the ash and molten debris preserved the city and the bodies. 

40 Fossil Finds Unearthed
They found the oldest fossils to date in Greenland. History

1. Scientists discovered stromatolites in 2012. 

In Isua, Greenland, the oldest fossils were found. The most recent one shattered the oldest fossil record of 3.48 billion years to 3.7 billion years. Professor Allen Nutman of the University of Wollongong studied the ancient rock formations in Greenland’s Isua Supracrustal Belt for over three decades. In 2016, Professor Nutman and his colleagues claimed they had discovered the remnants of the ancient bacteria stromatolites in 3.7 billion-year-old rocks. However, more recently, NASA astrobiologist Abigail Allwood challenged their discovery. Abigail Allwood believes the cone-shaped structures in the stones thought to be the ancient bacteria are, in fact, elongated structures that form via natural movement in tectonic plates. 

Sources:

“10 Weirdest Fossils,” by Grace Murano. Oddee. April 16, 2013.

“The Most Bizarre Fossils Ever Discovered,” by Eric Vega. Ranker. 

“25 Most Bizarre Fossils Ever Discovered,” by Alex Salamanca. List 25.

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