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Geologist E. Ray Garton to Speak at Fossil Day at Grave Creek Mound

By Staff | Sep 15, 2021

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville will host Fossil Day on Saturday, Sept. 18, from noon to 4 p.m., featuring a presentation by Geologist E. Ray Garton. The event is free and open to the public.

At 1 p.m., Garton will present “Thomas Jefferson’s Contribution to West Virginia Paleontology.” West Virginia’s state fossil, the giant ground sloth, is named Megalonyx jeffersonii in honor of Jefferson. Garton is a graduate of West Virginia University where he majored in geology and paleontology.

He serves as curator of the Geology Museum at the WVGES and as a research associate to the Section of Vertebrate Fossils of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and is a frequent contributor to the fossil collections of the Carnegie Museum and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Fossil Day will be held in the exhibit “Prehistoric West Virginia: West Virginia Fossils,” a display of fossil casts and real fossils on loan from Prehistoric Planet, “The Museum Where You Can Purchase Every Exhibit.” Garton and his wife Mary Ellen are curators and owners of the exhibit which includes a recently added full-sized cast of the skeleton of a stegodon, an elephant-like mammal that roamed the earth 11 million to 6,000 years ago.

Attendees are invited to bring fossils for expert identification by Dr. Ronald McDowell, senior research geologist of the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey (WVGES) located in Mont Chateau, near Morgantown. McDowell holds a Ph.D. in geology from the Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo., and specializes in invertebrate paleontology, the study of large and small fossil animals that do not have an internal skeleton. He will identify fossils from noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m.

Fossil Day will also include a variety of family-oriented activities such as making fossil casts, looking for fossil shark teeth in sand matrix, observing tiny fossils through a microscope, and an exhibit hunt in which participants can earn prizes.

Operated by the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex features one of the largest conical burial mounds built by the Adena people between 250 – 150 B.C. and ranks as one of the largest earthen mortuary mounds anywhere in the world. Exhibits and displays in the Delf Norona Museum interpret what is known about the lives of these prehistoric people and the construction of the mound. The complex also houses the West Virginia Archaeological Research and Collections Management Facility.

Admission to Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex is free. The Delf Norona Museum, located at 801 Jefferson Avenue, is open 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. Access to the Mound and other outdoor areas closes at 4:30 pm.

For more information about activities and programs at Grave Creek Mound, contact Andrea Keller, cultural program coordinator, at (304) 843-4128 or andrea.k.keller@wv.gov or visit www.facebook.com/gravecreekmound and www.twitter.com/gravecreekmound.