Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fremont’s Long History of Fossil Discovery

As we mentioned last time, the ice age fossils found during the excavation of the Bay Division Pipelines Nos. 3 & 4 project have found a new home at the Children’s Natural History Museum. The SFPUC officially donated the fossils to the museum under the care of Dr. Joyce Bleuford last month.

The fossils date back to two possible eras, the Rancholabrean North American Land Mammal Age, discussed last post, and the Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age, which dates back 240,000 to 1.8 million years ago. This older geologic era shows indications of a freshwater lake bed. The fossil record includes freshwater snails, fish, mussels, and crayfish as well as reptiles and amphibians.

Fossil collection from the BDPL3&4 project site displayed at the Children’s Natural History Museum.
The Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age takes its name from the Irvington District in Fremont, where a group of self-named ‘boy paleontologists’ and their mentor Wes Gordon excavated tens of thousands of Pleistocene fossil finds from a gravel quarry in Fremont in the 1940's and 50's. Wes started the group as a way of keeping children out of trouble during World War II, but the group’s fossil finds eventually received national attention, including a story in Life Magazine in December of 1945.

Wes Gordon and the "Boy Paleontologists" excavating fossils in Fremont.
Although the majority of the fossils from the ‘boy paleontologists’ went to the University of California Berkeley, some of the collection went to the San Lorenzo School District, where Wes worked. In 2004, the Gordon family approached the Math Science Nucleus in Fremont to take on this collection, which can now be seen at the organization's Children's Natural History Museum. The museum, located at 4074 Eggers Drive in Fremont, hosts dozens of student field trips each year, and is the only Bay Area museum to regularly display fossils from the Bay Area.

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