Ancient Fossil Assemblage Discovered in Utah

August 09, 2022

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Photographer: Joe Bauman  

Summary Author: Joe Bauman  

While hunting trilobites in 1994, my son, Sky, and I came upon a Cambrian site in Utah that at first seemed unpromising. But decades later, when I resumed studying rocks picked up there, it became obvious that this is one of the world’s most remarkable Lagerstätten (extraordinary fossil assemblages) formations, with exceptional preservation, including soft tissue of ancient lifeforms. Because of the presence of the sponge-like archaeocyathids, I’m able to date it to sometime during the Early Cambrian Period, about 540 million or 530 million years ago. All of the fossils I found at this site are small, the largest just a few centimeters long; most are far tinier, in the range of millimeters or less.

Among the remains are leaflike forms, possible holdovers from the Ediacaran Period of the Precambrian; echinoderms, particularly carpoids and Gogia, and arthropods. The most astonishing of the last are fossils preserved within globules of crystal (probably calcite) or sheathed within it (bottom photo). Remains thus preserved often show soft material such as legs and internal structures. Note that insects preserved in amber are at least 200 million years younger.

To protect the site from collectors, it’s important to keep the location secret from the public. But I’m hopeful that academic paleontologists will want to know the location and to borrow specimens, with which I’ll gladly comply. Eventually, many of the specimens I found will be donated to the Utah Museum of Natural History in Salt Lake City. Scientists interested in learning more may contact me at [email protected].

For a fuller description, see my blog at The Early Cambrian: A New Utah Lagerstätte (


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