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How, and where to find fossils
While looking for arrowheads, I found something much older.
I was just a teenager at the time. My friend John and I had spent the morning walking through a freshly tilled field looking for arrow heads, with little to show for our efforts. To escape the heat we had sauntered off into the shade of some nearby trees. We were just shooting the breeze when I noticed the black glassy tooth embedded in a large limestone boulder. "That looks like a shark's tooth," I exclaimed.
"it is," John replied. "Didn't you know the rock in these hills are loaded with fossilized shark teeth?"
For a moment I was silent, not wanting to divulge my ignorance on the topic. "No" I finally grumbled, and that was the beginning of my fossil hunting days. Over the years I collected many shark's teeth, along with other fossils as well, but somehow managed to lose them in time. Today I have a new collection, but some of these I have today were purchased. Of course I had rather find them myself, as the real treasure is the adventure of the find.
Fossil hunting can be a great adventure for the entire family
Fossil hunting can be a great way for the family to spend a weekend together, just make sure to do a little research about the laws that govern it in your particular state before you begin. Of course you will also want to find the best places to look for them as well. In Florida, Venice Beach is known for the shark's teeth found there, and most of the surf shops sell the tools needed to dig them up and sift them out of the sand. Peace River is another place that's popular in Florida. There you might find a megalodon tooth, woolly mamoth, or mastodon tooth. Most often the fossils that you will find are smaller prehistoric shark's teeth. There's a number of books on the subject as well. If you are considering fossil hunting as a hobby, then you may need a license. In Florida you do not need a license for shark's teeth, shell, or fossilized plants. On state owned land, if you want to collect vertebrae fossils, for instance a mastodon tooth, you will need a permit. The permit costs five dollars and can be purchased through the University of Florida. A link is provided below. Animal fossils fall under the field of paleontology. Human artifacts like arrow heads and other tools, along with ancient human remains fall under archaeology, or anthropology. The laws regulating each are quite different.
For fossil hunting this is a good link to check out,
To apply for a permit use this link, flmnh.ufl.edu/vertpaleo/vppermit.htm
If you are interested in archaeology, then check out the link below. The state of Florida requires a minimum of a graduate degree in the field of archaeology, or anthropology, and a year of hands on experience under the tutelage of a professional archaeologist.
Archaeology permit requirements, www.flheritage.com/archaeology/education/permit.cfm
You may also want to look at some of the books available on fossils. You can find a number of good books on Amazon and EBay. Below I have included photos of some of my fossils. These were collected across the country, but the megalodon teeth came from Florida. Some of these fossils were purchased. Not only is collecting fossils fun, but they can make great display pieces.
At the bottom of this article I have included information on two places that offer lodging on the Peace River, which is known for its fossils.
Megalodon teeth with a quarter for reference
Fossil Hunting on the Peace River
The mastodon tooth and the woolly mammoth tooth pictured below in this article, were both found on the Peace River, as well as some of the megalodon teeth. In the Fall of 2013, we had heavy rain in Florida that caused the Peace River to flood. It took several months for the water to return to its normal height. When the river floods, it helps wash away fossils from the earth. So I'm sure that there are fossils still waiting to be found from last year's flood.
In the winter we have our driest months, and that's the best time to go looking for fossils on the Peace River. There's other reasons as well. In the cooler months the reptiles are less active. You may not see any snakes or alligators, but they do habituate this river. When the river is low as it is in the winter months, so not only is the water it is much easier to see an alligator than when the water is higher and sometimes murky. There's less algae in the water as well, so it is more clear. This does not mean that you shouldn't try to fossil hunt there in the summer, only that winter is usually the ideal time to fossil hunt there.
If you do plan to go fossil hunting, it doesn't matter whether you go to the beach, or a river, you will need a small shovel and a fossil sifter. The sifter can be purchased on-line at EBay. I will also have a how to hub in the near future showing how you can make your own sifter.
I do not know this seller, but he has a good EBay rating.
Fossilized ferns and a fossilized leaf
A fossilized Priscacara
A woolly mammoth tooth. This tooth is almost twelve inches long and is missing the roots.
The woolly mammoth tooth alongside a mastadon tooth. Notice not only the difference in size, but the physical difference as well.
A rock slab with three nightia fish
Here we have a fossilized crab, sea urchin, brittle star, and a trilobyte
Places that specialize in fossil hunts
There's a number of places in Florida, and other parts of the country as well, that specialize in fossil hunting. There are two such places on the Peace River. You can click onto their links which I have provided below for more information about what they offer. The best time of the year for fossil hunting on the Peace River is in the winter months when the water level is low. In the Winter the river is usually around a foot deep on average. Please note that at the time this article was published, the campgrounds on the lower link allows ATVs on some trails. So it can be noisy. Call or go to their website for the specifics.
You will probably never see an alligator, but they are there.
I have never seen any large alligators on Peace River, but I have seen small alligators like these, which means there are big ones around.
Collecting fossils as a hobby
Collecting fossils is a great hobby. There are so many different types of fossils to be found, with new discoveries still being made. For the amateur it's a great way to learn about the prehistoric animals that once roamed this planet, and there's no décor quite sophisticated as a nice fossil display. If you don't want to get your feet wet, or dirty, then there are many sites and stores that specialize in selling fossils. Many collectors have never stuck a shovel in dirt.