One must have a goal

Here’s a good one: a step-by-step recipe to becoming a fossil. Yes! I think I can do this!

Step 1 is to die. I will probably be able to do this without too much problem, but I think I’d rather wait a little while.

Step 2 is neglect. Your corpse shouldn’t be dismantled, shredded, consumed, etc. I think I can do that one, too!

So far, this is looking easy.

Step 3 is burial, also achievable. First catch, though: soil chemistry matters. This is not usually on the list of options at the mortuary. Burial under volcanic ash is mentioned as specifically a bonus, also not usually a service provided by the undertaker.

Step 4 is…fossilization? Wait a minute, all that other, easy stuff is just a prelude? Dang. And then this step looks like it’s strongly chance dependent.

Oh, well. At least the procedure doesn’t look like I’ll have to do any work, which is good, since I’ll be dead through most of it.


  1. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    The link is on how to become a primate fossil, so it seems that they left out one step. Step 0: Be a primate.

    Granted, most of us probably qualify, but all the Cephalopods are out of luck.

  2. davidnangle says

    Sometimes, when I’m reading a good book, concentrating on some work, or playing a particularly involving video game, I start to fossilize. It’s sometimes difficult to reverse the process. Particularly in my legs.

    When I’m ready, though, I plan to enjoy holding very, very still for several googolplex trillion millenia. Or more.

  3. blf says

    Perhaps this is a hint as to why poopyhead has vats full of creatures — perhaps he intends to fossilize them and confound far future archaeologists.

  4. Walter Solomon says

    If all primates had the foresight to practice burial at sea, that, perhaps, would be a step n the right direction.
    It takes sediment to make sedimentary rock (I.e. fossils) and what better place to find sediment than under water?

  5. TheGyre says

    I’m with jazzlet. You should become a Bog Man. But keep future researchers guessing — tie a rope around your neck. They’ll bicker among themselves, was it murder, suicide or sacrifice? And to make it even more interesting have an image of cephalopod etched on a piece of stone and hang that around your neck, too. Just think of the hours of fun you’ll for future generations!

  6. robro says

    I received an advertising flier recently from a company calling itself “Smart Cremation” with the tag line: “Real People. Real Value. Real Stories.” Really!

    Perhaps there’s a business opportunity here: Smart Fossilization.

    And as if weird ideas will never die, I saw a post in FB recently for cryogenics…which said it really, really works. I’m actually quite confident there are no problems freezing dead tissue. I’ve got some in the freezer in my basement. Of course, there’s a big cost difference between my freezer (dollars/month), and cryogenic services (your estate).

  7. says

    I though the best way to become an instant fossil was to rush up to an exploding volcano wielding your smart phone as some sort of talisman against thinking too hard.

  8. se habla espol says

    It sounds like Harry R Truman may be a candidate for fossilization in a bunch of millennia. He passes at least steps 0, 1, and 3; some of the specifics of his demise might have violated step 2, though: in addition to the ash and water, there was a bunch of heat and flying rock that may have endangered his bodily integrity.

  9. blf says

    And it’s a bonus if the fossil cause a “wtf?” mystery, How a newly-discovered mastodon jaw became a mammoth mystery:

    Dr Chris Widga and his team thought the remains they were excavating were ‘just another mastodon’. But when the jaw appeared, it was unlike anything the team had ever seen. What exactly could it be?

    He’d been offering tantalising hints throughout his presentation: an ulna here; a large femur there; a calculated weight of 16 tons for this animal. But it wasn’t until he showed an image of the excavated jaw that some of us became really excited.

    This wasn’t a typical mastodon.

    And when someone like Dr Chris Widga — a palaeontologist with extensive proboscidean knowledge — looks at a fossil and isn’t sure what it is, it’s time to pay attention. […]


    The Gray Fossil mastodon […] is markedly long with a much thicker chin tusk: two elements that do not indicate Mammut [americanum (American mastodon)].

    It was this elongated jaw that prompted them to compare the fossil to another earlier proboscidean species — the gomphothere — which does have elongated jaws and which has been found in sites relatively close to Tennessee.


    [… T]he Gray Fossil jaw doesn’t match those of gomphotheres, so it was ruled out.

    The next step? Looking further into mastodon ancestry to a species called Zygolophodon. Granted, I’m not an expert, but I’ve spent the past several years learning about proboscideans, and I’d never heard of Zygolophodon […]


    And yet the Gray Fossil jaw just doesn’t fit into this category either.

    “That’s part of the reason why we’re like, ‘ok it’s not completely like American mastodon, but yet it’s not completely like Zygolophodon,’” Dr. Widga stated. “It’s something in between. It exhibits characters of both of these taxa. We don’t think it’s a hybrid, but the exact relationship between Zygolophodon and Mammut is not well mapped right now.”

    It remains a mystery, then, at least while Widga and his team continue to excavate and prepare the bones for further analysis. […]

    According to the article, the Gray Fossil Site itself “was discovered in 2000, the happy result of a road project that was halted and moved after fossils were discovered. Thanks to local citizens, politicians and scientists, a museum literally stands atop the site.” Far more than just this mysterious proboscidean has been found there, with “[a]ncient rhino, alligator, invertebrates, plants and literally hundreds of tapirs”.

    So, you should try for a “wtf?” fossil and get a literally purpose-built museum if you do it right.