Discover what prehistoric Northeast Tennessee was like in a presentation Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Tusculum College.
“The Gray Fossil Site: Relics, Remnants and Resources” will be presented by Jeanne Zavada, director of the East Tennessee State University and General Shale Brick Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site. The presentation will take place at 7 p.m. in the Behan Arena Theatre in the lower level of the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Building on the Tusculum College campus.
Zavada will share the amazing story of the fossil site and describe the resources available at the site and the Natural History Museum during the presentation, which is part of Tusculum College Arts Outreach’s Acts, Arts, Academia 2010-11 performance and lecture series.
The Gray Fossil Site has garnered much attention and interest from both paleontologists and the general public. Discovered during preparatory work for a state highway project in 2000, the site has revealed an entire ecosystem that existed four to seven million years ago, allowing a glimpse into what the southern Appalachians looked like at the end of the era known as the Miocene Epoch.
Many of the plants and animals discovered are extinct, while others exist today, but not in eastern Tennessee. Some plants, such as oak and hickory trees, were part of the main diet for the prehistoric animals and are still part of the East Tennessee landscape. Four species of turtles found at the site continue to live in the region’s forests.
Thousands of specimens have been excavated by paleontologists, staff and volunteers during the past decade including alligators, camels, sloths, elephants, rhinos, tapirs, peccary, and other species totally new to science.
The Gray site has also provided the largest cache of tapir fossils anywhere in the world.
The site is nearly five acres in size and 100 feet deep. The fossil remains of the Gray site have been uniquely preserved by rich, organic matter that filled what had been a vibrant pond that attracted a variety of animals.
To introduce visitors to the site, a Natural History Museum and Visitor Center was constructed that offers tours of ongoing fossil digs, interactive exhibits and education programs for people of all ages. The museum also features temporary traveling exhibits. An education annex is now under construction that will feature a rooftop outdoor classroom with a weather monitoring station, a café, an indoor wet lab and a second outdoor classroom.
Admission is $6 per person, and tickets will be available at the door. For more information about the program, please contact Tusculum College Arts Outreach at 423.798.1620 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http//arts.tusculum.edu.