Gray Fossil Site and Museum

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1212 Suncrest Drive, Gray, TN, USA

Gray Fossil Site and Museum Reviews

alyssa_ob alyssa_ob
244 reviews
great hands-on museum with a chance to dig for fossils! Sep 12, 2008
The Gray Fossil Site was discovered in 2000 during highway constructions activities. A large bone, an elephant hip, was discovered and brought all construction to a halt. Many other bones were discovered and soon it was realized that this was the largest Miocene fossil deposit in the US.

4.5 - 7 million years ago, a cave collapsed, creating a sinkhole that filled with water and became a popular watering hole with the local residents. Several of these animals perished (perhaps by their own clumsiness and inability to swim) and their bodies became preserved in the clayey sediments. Originally thought to be an ice age deposit, the discovery of an alligator skull quickly suggested a much warmer climate! Several different species of animals have been found there, including two NEW species!!! The new species are a type of red panda and badger. Other fossils are from tapirs, rhinocerous, horses, sloths, turtles, bear, and much more!

The site covers 5 acres and the deposit goes to depths of greater than 100 ft! It is estimated that it will take 100 years to complete the digging of this site! The current dig site is located on the side of a hill that was removed for highway construction. It is covered with a nice big tent so the paleontologists can work in the rain. The excavation is still pretty small, average size about 20 ft by 30 ft by 3 ft deep. The majority of the digging is done by ETSU students and staff with some help from volunteers. They even offer a day at the dig for adults in summer! Digging is slow, maybe a centimeter at a time, because they don't want to overlook or damage any fossils.

The price of admission was $5 and included a guided tour of the dig site, upstairs lab and speciman viewing, downstairs video and exhibits. The guides were local college students that were generally not in paleontology - ETSU did not have a paleontology program prior to the discovery of this site. The museum is very interesting and informative with lots of hands on activities that are fun for adults as well as kids. I will have to try to make it out for a dig next fall - it looks like fun!
alligator skeleton
the current dig site
red panda skeleton
part of the lab
1 / 1 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
geokid says:
I put it on my list of places I must visit.
Posted on: Jan 28, 2009
alyssa_ob says:
Lol! Nice pun ;)
Posted on: Sep 13, 2008
vances says:
You may believe the discovery of an alligator skull was the key...but it could have been a croc!
Posted on: Sep 12, 2008
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