Fossils in our Nation’s Capital

No, the title doesn’t refer to the ancient beasts roaming the halls of Congress though I do wish some of them would go the way of dinosaurs. Instead, I want to highlight a web site I just learned about. It is Fossils in the Architecture of Washington, DC: A Guide to Washington’s Accidental Museum of Paleontology. The site has been put together by Christopher Barr, a lawyer who has lived in DC since 1979. As the name implies, the site’s goal is “to describe, or at least list, all of the public fossils occurring in Washington’s architectural landscape.”

Barr has done a first rate job of assembling a thorough list of the fossil-rich buildings throughout the capital. For each building, he provides an introduction on what you can see, where to see it, and a history of the building. In some cases, he also speculates why a particular stone was chosen. He then provides photos (with helpful scales) of the fossils, which he describes in detail, providing geologic background. Finally, he documents who helped him and where one can obtain more background information. Nowhere else have I found such a well-put-together site about urban fossils.

Urban fossils are amazing resources and offer an excellent way to get people interested in fossils, deep time, evolution, and geology in general. Plus, as Barr has done, these fossils are a great way to get people to think about human history. He does list a many of the guides that are available but it is such a small list considering the wonderful fossils found in the urban environment. I hope that Barr’s site can inspire other urban paleontologists to do the same thing in their cities.

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