Kids who dig will love this: the David H. Kock Hall of Fossils, a wing at the National Museum of Natural History, is slated to open June 8, 2019. The dedicated website has a countdown calendar for enthusiasts, but if you can’t wait until next spring for your fossil fix, there are almost 40 fossilized materials scattered throughout the District, and right under your nose.
Photo: Erin Blatzer via flickr
Whether you are headed out to explore one of D.C.’s museums or you are specifically on the hunt for signs of prehistoric animals, check out the regional guide to Washington’s Accidental Museum of Paleotology. This online source not only details the exact locations you can find ancient markings, but gives you a full history on where they came from and how they came to be. You’ll view the metro area in a whole new light when you learn that you can fossil hunt at the Lincoln Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, The Library of Congress, the National Museum of African Art, the National Zoo and more! For some added fun, consider bringing a magnifying glass, and some paper and charcoal to make relief rubbings of your findings. Here’s the low-down on some of our favorite fossil findings:
Dinosaurs are most similar to today’s reptiles, which is why you’ll find a mosaic of the stegosaurus above the Reptile House at the National Zoo. It’s a fitting place to find remnants of Jurassic era. The pillars that support the dinosaur contain many fossilized specimens and some speculate that their inclusion in the architecture may have been deliberate. The easiest to spot is the very distinct ammonite shell (which looks a lot like a coiled snake or a snail shell) on the left pillar approximately four feet from the ground. You’ll also find belemnite shells embedded throughout. Click here for information on the shells and the stone used for the pillars.
3001 Connecticut Ave., NW (Woodley Park)
National Museum of American Indian
The rich texture of this museum’s walls are meant to evoke the earthy feel of the American West, but look closer and you’ll find traces of animals from millions of years ago. If you look at the palest piece of stone just thirty feet to the left of the main entrance, you will find penne pasta-like tubes left by ancient worms. You’ll also find shells embedded in the rock. For clues on where to hunt for ancient shells at this museum, go here.
4th St., SW & Independence Ave., SW (National Mall)
The National Gallery of Art
You can explore three distinct paleo-displays in the main entryway. Near the painting of the Madonna by Nardo di Cione, you’ll find a gray and pink stone border to the flooring (in the corner of the room). Here, little eyes can spy the fossils of marine life (best known as nautiloids). These coiled creatures are the easiest to find in the museum, but older children may be able to make out fainter, harder to find creatures, like remnants of the Archimedes. Go here for more fossil hunting tips in this art gallery.
6th & Constitution Aves., NW (National Mall)