How to Become a Fossil

Fossil, Gorgonopsid

Becoming a fossil requires luck – or planning and prescience.

Do you dream that your bones may one day end up in the museum of a new civilization an aeon from now? Only one in a million creatures ends up as a fossil, so do your planning now.

The Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre in Nieu-Bethesda explains the rather stringent conditions:

  1. Die on a floodplain close to a meandering river in a lowland area where silt and mud accumulate.
  2. Die where you’ll get buried in mud and sand, preferably on a lakeshore or a migrating sand dune.
  3. Avoid being eaten by big scavenging bone-crunchers like hyena. Better still, die in a burrow, but definitely avoid being buried in a coffin.
  4. Either way, get buried quickly. Within five years your bones will disintegrate if they’re exposed. A collapsed burrow, a tar pit or simple quicksand would be perfect.
  5. You’ll need your bones to be mineralised within 50 000 years, so your resting place should ideally have plenty of limestone in the soil. This will also stop them becoming flattened.
  6. Avoid places where there might be volcanoes or earthquakes.
  7. Try to die in a place where an experienced fossil finder will discover you in a million years.

    Uncovering fossil

    The painstaking process of separating stone from fossil.

The Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre is one of Nieu-Bethesda’s attractions. It’s open between 9am and 5pm most days and entry is R20. To contact them, call Ian McKay on 011 717 6685 or email or Alternately speak to Katrin or Ian Allemann at the Karoo Lamb on 049 841 1642 or email

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