In these modern times of high-tech toys, are kids just as interested in something millions of years old?
Just ask Railynn Creed, 6, of Ararat, who was all smiles during Saturday’s Dino Day at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, after she found a shark’s tooth thought to be 5 to 20 million years old.
The girl unearthed the tooth while sifting through containers of fossil-rich sand brought from the Aurora Phosphate Mine in eastern North Carolina.
Railynn dug into the material being displayed on the third floor of the museum as part of Dino Day. And the best part was that the Ararat girl and her fellow novice archaeologists who participated were allowed to keep any marine fossils they came across.
In her case, it was the shark’s tooth that she proudly held up afterward.
“It was so cool — and exciting,” Railynn said of the discovery, especially since the fossil was from a Mako shark that is now extinct. Those sharks of old grew up to 30 feet long and boasted a lethal arsenal of 147 razor-sharp teeth.
But the indoor fossil dig, though a popular spot inside the museum Saturday, was not the only attraction during Dino Day — which was dedicated to dinosaurs and more, and staged with help from the North Carolina Fossil Club based in Raleigh.
The five club members brought items from their personal collections to display and provided information about the artifacts to Dino Day attendees of all ages who seemed excited about the opportunity. These included whale bones, clams, oysters and other marine fossils found in quarries and additional locations in North Carolina, along with fossilized plant material, bones from ancient bison and walruses and other discoveries.
Saturday’s event was fun as well as educational, and when kids weren’t digging for sharks’ teeth or other fossils, they could migrate to an arts and craft station to make dinosaur masks and hats, or play games such as dinosaur egg bowling and dinosaur matching.
“Fossils are fun”
“Dinosaurs are a big thing people are interested in,” agreed Jim Mickle, one of the North Carolina Fossil Club members exhibiting items and giving demonstrations at Saturday’s event in Mount Airy. It was held in conjunction with a traveling dinosaur exhibit that has been on display at the museum since February and will leave in August.
The idea of giant creatures once roaming the earth which aren’t around anymore is a topic of interest for people today, and since dinosaurs don’t exist, their bones and other fossils left behind are the next-best thing.
“Fossils themselves are fascinating to people,” said Mickle, a professor at N.C. State University, a paleobotanist who works in the school’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology and has been in the club for 20 years.
“They love to look for fossils,’ Mickle added. “There’s something about them that just captures the imagination.”
One reason for this is the fact that all fossils once were living things, albeit a long time ago.
“Fossils are fun,” Mickle said, “breaking open a rock and seeing something that hasn’t been seen for millions of years.”
Perhaps the most-ancient item on display Saturday at the museum is something called “Aspidella terranovic,” said to be 542 million years old. Diane Willis of the North Carolina Fossil Club was showing it on a table along with other rare relics.
Aspidella terranovic is a flat rock that appears to contain the imprint of some kind of marine creature.
The idea of connecting the distant past to the present seemed to appeal to Ray Creed of Ararat, who attended Dino Day with his wife Brittney and their three children ages 6 to 9, including Railynn, who found the shark’s tooth.
Creed indicated that studying fossils from the prehistoric past might help mankind better understand his own origins.
“We didn’t just appear,” said the Ararat dad, who also appreciates such hands-on activities children can participate in and become educated about “instead of being a couch potato.”
But for Ryan Hiatt, a 5-year-old from Pinnacle who attended Dino Day with his dad Anthony, it was all about the dinosaurs. Ryan paused during the event to explain why he likes those creatures, which included mention of Tyrannosaurus rex — one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs that ever lived.
“T. rex bites people,” the youth said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.