Return to Carmel Church


This morning we began our latest excavation at the Carmel Church Quarry. We’ll be on site for the next two weeks, and as in past years I’ll try to post each evening about the day’s activities.

There’s been a lot of rain in Virginia the last few months, and we haven’t been to the site since March. The road into the pit has overgrown a bit, but we had no problems getting to the site. After meeting with Jason Babcock and Tim Rice from Martin Marietta for a refresher in safety training, we got to work reopening the Buttercup Pit.

We spent a couple of hours removing overburden, and taking off our temporary jacket from last March (we left a few bones in the ground on that trip). By late morning we had reached the bonebed, and we pretty quickly started finding new specimens. James and Courtland each found a possible vertebra, located only a few inches from each other:


Here’s a marked up version:


The vertebra on the left appears to be a whale. I’m not sure about the one on the right. I think it’s a vertebra, but I don’t know yet if it’s whale or fish.

Amanda found several interesting bones on the other side of the pit, including this sunfish dermal bone…


…and this shell fragment from the sea turtle Syllomus:


In the weathered material near the front of the pit (and after Tim had done all the hard work of getting down to the bonebed) I found a possible seed or nut:


I’m not positive about my identification on this one. While Carmel Church is loaded with fossil wood, recognizable pieces are exceedingly rare, so if I’m correct about this being a nut it will be a nice find.

All in all it was a very successful first day, and I’m optimistic about the next two weeks. I’d like to thank Martin Marietta Materials, including Jason and Tim, for continuing to provide access to the site. I also need to point out that we are able to conduct this excavation due to our successful fundraising effort at I’d like to thank Matt Salzberg and the rest of the staff at, as well as the 39 donors listed below, who generously donated to this project and made our work possible:

Keith Degnan
Courtland Lyle
MC Santoro
Martha Santoro
Grenda Dennis
Karen Doty
Mike Morriss
Benoît Rogez
Brett Dooley
Nicholas Kessler
Herbert M. Sauro
Pamela Board
Lanakila Alexander
Tuomas Kankola
Angel Thornell
Stephen Pyne
Jason Steiner
Daniel Ewald
Kevin Middleton
Marion Kiser Adam
Jess Armstrong
Christina Byrd
Zachary Ryder
Richard Neal
Cynthia and John Duke Anthony
Steven Purcell
Tim Krynak
Gina Camozzi
Matt Salzberg
Jenny Hunter
James W. Severt
Joe B. Keiper
Willisia Holbrook
Ryan Barber
Marko Bosscher
Ruth-Decker Chaney
Martin Czigler
William Schlickenmaier
Rose M. Schooff

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One Response to Return to Carmel Church

  1. George says:

    I collect in the Martin Marietta quarries in North Carolina and the folks have been great supporters of fossil hunters. Some time in the fall I am setting up displays for Mr Yates collection for their corporate headquarters in Raliegh He ran three major quarries over his career and was so receptive to fossil hunters. I am so glad to see that they allow your museums access to the most important site in Virginia

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