Wednesday, November 14, 2012

11/14/12 Report - Fascinating Artifact Whatzit & Fossils on the Beach

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Here are two photos of the artifact found by hangingfor8 that I mentioned yesterday.   If you have seen an item like this before or have any thoughts on the identity of the item, please let me know.

Two Views of Whatzit.
Photos Submitted by Haningfor8.
It is three inches long.  The metal is undetermined and may be Tumbaga or bronze.

I hope we can figure it out.

That is one nice find.  Congratulations!

I got word from Aquanut John that the cookout was a big success.  I'm glad of that. 

If you spend enough time on Florida beaches you will probably see some fossils whether you realize it or not. 

I recently received an email from someone asking how to identify fossils and pot shards.   Those are two subjects that I would like to know a lot more about myself.   I'll try to address the matter of fossils to some extent today.

If you spend much time on Florida's beaches you will probably at one time or another see a few fossils.  They are there from time to time, whether you recognize them or not.

The paleontology community works very well with amateurs and you should not be afraid of thembut rather cooperate with them in all ways possible.  You will find them very helpful. 

I once reported on a meeting that I attended where Richard Hulbert of the Florida Museum of Natural History invited people to bring fossils they found and he helped to identify them.

Be aware of the fact that there are laws governing the collecting of fossils, so if you want to do any more than recognize the examples you see on the beach, you should look into obtaining a fossil permit that will allow you to collect fossils on land owned or leased by the State of Florida, which includes submerged lands such as those in creeks. 

The cost is $5 and the requirements are very reasonable.  If you want to look into it, look at Florida Statute 240.516.

In any case, if you think you might have found something significant, report it to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

First off, I don't know much about fossils but I have learned to recognize some types that are commonly seen on Treasure Coast beaches.  I depend upon experts to tell me exactly what they are.

As I've said many times, keep your eyes open and try to be tuned into anything that does not look natural or common.  If you develop the habit, you'll be surprised at what you might see, including possibly an occasional fossil.

There are a lot of different types of fossils.  For example, there are the impressions of leaves and things that you might see in coal or sandstone up north.  The type of fossil that you might see on  Treasure Coast beaches include plants or bones that have been mineralized. 

Most of those that I've seen on Treasure Coast beaches are either black or brown - most often black. 

Of course reading is a good way to learn to recognize fossils.  Browsing online resources is another.  I like to go to eBay, for example, and browse "Florida fossils."  You'll see a lot of examples that way.  The more examples you see the better off you will be.

In Florida there are experienced fossil guides (with pemits to search state lands) that for a fee will take you to a good fossil hunting locations such as the Peace River.  They will show you where to dig and what to look for and then explain what you found.  That is a very good way to learn.  You can learn a lot very quickly that way.

From my experience, most of the fossils on the Treasure Coast beaches are black and shiny.  They are generally harder and feel heavier than unfossilized bone.  Tap it with something hard and if it sounds like you are tapping china it might be a fossil.  Regular bone will give more of a dull thud.   I've also read that if you put a match flame to an unfossilized bone it will smell a little like hair burning.  I've never tried that.

To tell a piece of fossil bone from rocks or other things, besides looking for characteristic shapes, if the bone is broken you will very often see a spongy or webbed surface  inside.  The contrast of the smooth outer surface and the spongy inside will often help you tell the difference between rocks or other things and fossil bones.

Two Fossilized Bones Showing Smooth Surfaces and Spongy Insides Exposed.
Well, I only touched one small part of that subject, but you can use some of the resources I mentioned to start learning more about fossils.  I just keep my eyes open while detecting and have a lot of fun seeing all the kinds of things that are out there on the beach.

If I made any mistakes in any of this let me know and I'll be glad to correct it.

The wind is from the east today.  We have four to six foot swells along the Treasure Coast today, decreasing a touch tomorrow.

No change in conditions.

Let me know if you have any ideas about the mystery item.

Happy hunting,