Excavate your own fossils at home while learning all about fossils and where they came from! Registrants will be able to pick up their program kit from the Potomac Branch 1 week before the program. Staff will email registrants to set up a Curbside Pick Up appointment. 

1 kit per registration, please.

  • Amber – Full body insect fossils can be found preserved in hardened tree sap called amber. These fossils can remain preserved in amber for up to millions of years.

  • Carbonization – Carbonization is when all the elements of the organism are dissolved except for the carbon. The carbon leaves a residue which shows an outline of the organism. 

  • Casts and Molds – A cast or a mold fossil is an impression of a living organism. They are made when an organism dissolves in the Earth and leaves a hollow mold behind. The mold is then filled in by minerals, leaving something like a statue of the organism behind. 

  • Freezing – Some fossils are preserved in ice. As long as the ice doesn’t melt, the fossil may be preserved for thousands of years. Large fossils such as the wooly mammoth have been discovered in the glaciers of the Arctic. 

  • Mummification – In really dry areas, a fossil may be formed through mummification. This is when the dead organism quickly dries out. Because there is little moisture, the remains of the organism can be preserved for a long time leaving a fossil. 

  • Permineralization – Permineralization is when mineral deposits form a cast of the organism. Fossils formed this way can be very detailed. Common minerals include silicate, carbonate, and pyrite.

Types of Fossils 

There are two main types of fossils: body and trace fossils. 

  • Body fossils – Body fossils are fossils where some portion of the actual organism’s body remains as part of the fossil. This might be a tooth or piece of bone. 
  • Trace fossils – Trace fossils are fossils where there isn’t any actual part of the original organism, but “traces” of the organism are preserved in rocks and minerals. There are many different types of trace fossils including molds, animal tracks, casts, and impressions.

Check out these great books about fossils!

Searching for Stinkodon by Megan McDonald

Fossil Hunters at Work by Ruth Owen 

Discovering Fossils by Jessie Alkire