How Were Fossils Formed? -- By: Austin Robbins

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 10:4 (Autumn 1997)
Article: How Were Fossils Formed?
Author: Austin Robbins


How Were Fossils Formed?

Austin Robbins

Austin Robbins, DDS, recently retired from private practice in New Jersey. He was previously on the faculties of Georgetown University School of Dentistry, Temple University Dental School, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Robbins is a member of the Board of Directors of the Associates for Biblical Research.

Fossils have been discovered on every continent, in almost every country, in great profusion world-wide. It is safe to say that no significant area of the earth’s surface is without fossils. Man treads, everywhere he walks, on the graves of creatures formerly alive.

Over the centuries man has expended great effort to preserve the bodies of his deceased loved ones. The mummies of Egypt’s Pharaohs provide graphic testimony of man’s ancient effort to thwart the ravages of physical decomposition after death. Without such effort no, or few, remains would be left, especially after a millennium or two.

How is it then that the bodies of many creatures, man included, have been fossilized, preserved indefinitely by natural forces? Vast myriads of fossil fish, millions of other creatures, plants as well as animals, have been preserved in rocks. Fossils are far from rare. The Lompoc formation in California contains innumerable fossilized fish. There are sand hills in Nebraska containing more dinosaur bones than sand. Most of the world’s ivory supply came, not from the tusks of living elephants, but from those of mammoths which died in Siberia. Fossils are everywhere, in vast quantities.

How to Make a Fossil

The requirements for fossil formation are not too complex. It is not enough that the mere death of a creature could form it into a fossil. Many fish, for instance, have died almost at the same instant, due to a change in salinity or oxygen content of the water. Bodies of hundreds, if not thousands, of fish have been seen floating on the surface of creeks. Yet these did not become fossils. Crabs and gulls consumed most of them. What was left the minnows ate. And the remainder decomposed. This is the normal course of events. It is a far cry from the formation of beds of fossil fish.

Two basic requirements must be met to produce fossils. First, the rapid death of many creatures. Second,

equally rapid preservation of their bodies, more or less intact. In many instances — the dinosaurs for example — death occurred, but burial was somewhat delayed. Burial came only after the flesh decomposed, leaving only the bones. In other cases, immediately upon the death of the creature it was frozen. The mammoths, elephants and rhinocero...

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