People and Places with Pierce: The Aurora Fossil Museum


AURORA, N.C. (WNCT) – “The town of Aurora has an under 500 population,” explained Cynthia Crane, director of the Aurora Fossil Museum. “So it’s a destination town. So you have to be coming here to get here.”

And when you get to Aurora, you might find something a little unexpected.

“Hi, welcome to the Aurora Fossil Museum,” said Nellie Carter, who works at the museum.

“This is really the only place east of Raleigh that concentrates on fossils,” added George Oliver, Jr., the museum educator. “They’re world famous really.”

“This is Megalodon,” said Crane as she pointed to a large shark display near the front entrance of the museum. “We call her Meg. She’s one of the icons of the Fossil Museum. It was founded basically as an economic development plan for the town of Aurora to showcase the wondrous fossils that were found and being discovered in the local phosphate mine. Phosphate is that dark green layer.The phosphate company has to remove that overburden to get to the phosphate. Hence the fossils had to be discovered in the mine because they had to get through them to get to the phosphate.”

The mine may have no use for it, but all of that great fossil dirt doesn’t go to waste.

Arguably the best part of the museum is the fossil pile, where you can dig in the dirt and get the chance to take home your own fossil.

“Everybody finds something,” said Oliver, Jr., referring to the fossil pit. “They find coral, they find shells, they’ll find little shark’s teeth.”

Just make sure you pack your patience.

“This stuff here is anywhere between about 5 to 25 million years old,” said Tyler Cornelius, who also works at the museum. “It’s really hard to tell exactly how old it is because a lot of the fossils that were down in the layers have been mixed up with one another when they dumped all this out.”

“You need to come here,” urged Crane. “You need to come out here and check it out for yourself. And you will be impressed, I guarantee you. And usually I’m right. I mean I haven’t been wrong yet.”

“To me, it’s like a second childhood,” added Oliver, Jr. “I get to go dig in the dirt with the kids. I get to be a kid again digging in the dirt looking for treasures.”

Be a kid again and dig the past at the East’s only fossil museum.

Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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