Fossils index

Not Fossils

The easiest way to collect fossils is to buy them from a rock shop or a museum shop. That way, you know that it is a genuine fossil. You will be told the name of the fossil, and perhaps even some information about it.

It's fun to try to find fossils yourself. But how do you recognise a fossil when you see it? This webpage shows some things that are not fossils.


Many people find knobbly rocks that they are convinced must be bones - probably dinosaur bones! I'm afraid not. Dinosaur bones are rare. This rock on the left is a nodule of flint and nothing else. There are fossils in flint, but they tend to have marks on the surface. The stone on the left looks boring on this side. Click on it and keep your finger down to turn it over. Yes, this is a fossil.



On the left, this is a bone. However, it is not a fossil. It's a real bone (probably buried by a dog). On the right is a real fossil bone. The colour can help you tell the difference, since the real bone is white and the fossil bone is stone coloured. However, you can't see the main difference. The real bone is light. The fossil bone is stone, and so it is heavy. There is another difference. I didn't find the fossil - I bought it in a shop. I did find the bone (in my garden). Some fossils are common and easy to find, but not dinosaur bones!


Moss agate

On the left, this attractive stone looks as if there is some sort of vegetation growing through it. It is even called moss agate. However, it is not moss, vegetation or anything alive or previously alive. It is green streaks of mineral. On the other hand, the stone on the right is full of tiny fossils. Some patterned stones have fossils in, some don't. The only way to tell the difference is to find out what sort of rock it is, possibly by asking someone.

Crinoidal agate

So how can you tell if something is a fossil? This page gives some hints. Make sure that it is a stone, because all fossils are stones. Then have a look through this website, and get an idea of the shapes of the most common fossils. You will find that many of them are shells. So if you find something that is made of stone but looks like a shell, you may have found a fossil.

You can also buy fossils. The common fossils are usually cheap to buy, and once you have handled a few, you can recognise the shape when you see it again.

Many museums that have geology collections will identify your fossils for you (or tell you that it's not a fossil). Don't be discouraged if you make mistakes. Learn from them!

There are certain places where fossils are common, such as Lyme Regis in Dorset. These places will often run fossil hunting parties that tell you what to look for and where to look.