Do you know how fossils are made? There are a couple of ways actually..

Sometimes a fossil is made when a shell, a foot, a whatever, leaves an impression in the mud and it hardens. Sometimes a fossil is made when something hollow fills with mud and hardens and eventually the whole thing becomes fossilized. This is particularly common with snail shells, clams and that sort of thing.

And I find it completely fascinating.

Living in this area has turned the kids and I into amateur fossil collectors. We enjoy digging through the dirt and seeing what we can find. I guess we’re weird. ;0)

A few days ago the kids and I got distracted by fossil hunting and came away with a handful of pretty things. See? (I hope I don’t bore with this sciency fossil stuff.. I promise there’s a parable in here at the end.)

Those are heart urchins, and they’re one of my favorites. They’re like prehistoric sand dollars.. and you can see the sand dollar pattern on the top. All the little bumplies? those are like hair follicles. Once upon a time, these were covered with little spines. the spines didn’t survive the fossilization process. But we can see and feel the “follicles” where they were. They’re awesome. =) We have a ton of these, ranging from dime sized to half dollar sized.

But here’s the cool part: these creatures have shells, and the shells filled with mud and eventually it turned into rock and became a fossil. If you look on the other side, you can see the fossilized shell flaking away. One has a huge divot (forgive the misspelling on the photo!), revealing the rock inside. What I find really cool is that when the shell flakes away, you can still see the star design and faint follicle marks underneath. Some of the fossils I find no long have any shell on them at all. They are just the fossilized inside rock, a cast (mold?) made from the inside of the urchin.

These are my absolute FAVORITE. Possibly because they’re the ones we have the hardest time finding. But also because they are so tiny, the size of a blueberry, and they have such intricate detail. I think they’re beautiful. =) See the 2nd one? It’s also flaking away. An inner beauty created in the hollow of the round sea urchin.

These, a kind of oyster, are actually my LEAST favorite. Probably because we have them coming out our EARS and I find them least impressive. This one, however… surprised me.

I found it like this.. this side an impression of the missing half of the oyster, complete with a bony looking ridge along the top created by the missing piece. And that would have been cool enough as it is… but then…

…It came out. A mold (cast?) I could hold in my hand, shaped by the two halves of the oyster until over time it fossilized. A perfect demonstration of how fossils are formed. Now THAT is cool.

Spiral shells are another common fossil around here. And I like these, too. Especially the big ones! The top one there is over 3 inches long!! Both of these are examples of fossils that no longer have their original shells. All we have now is a solid hunk of rock, a clone of the original but not quite. I often wonder: if this is what the INSIDE of the shell looks like, I wonder what the OUTSIDE looks like?

And here’s the lesson I learned while digging for fossils last week:

Most of the time in life, people would say that “nothing,” an “empty space,” (a hollow) doesn’t amount to much (or anything.)
Sometimes, though, a void is a lot. A hollow shell is an opportunity for a fossil to form, for example.

It reminds me of the glass half full or glass half empty argument. I’m not going to deny the empty half, it’s definitely there. But despite the empty half, my glass is always half full. What about yours?

Linked to Michelle’s Popinjay prompt: HOLLOW.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Written by


Hey, y’all! I’m Amber and I wear many hats. I drink a ton of coffee and I’m constantly sweeping crumbs off the floor. After 18 years of homeschooling, I’m getting close to graduating my third child and now we are starting over at preschool with our fourth, Lil Miss Mouse. She keeps us young and she’s the main reason for my excessive coffee consumption. Drink up!