As I began to observe these records, it was fun to imagine myself as a paleontologist of the urban present.
Because pavement fossils are essentially the same color as the surrounding concrete, they are highly visible when light shines across them; A fossil that is elusive at noon may announce itself at dawn or dusk. So I timed my second daily walk around daylight hours. Later in the afternoon, a bird introduced me to the small forked footprints that marked the scene of a fight. There were others: the paws of a dog, three-quarters of a shoe. Although ichnologists who study trace fossils might discount leaves, I marveled at that too: most of the London plane and the ginkgo, with its corrugated fan. Across from a covered snack cart, I knelt until the cold concrete stung my knees. I reached out of my glove and found the sharp, diagonal veins of a leaf, its saw-toothed sides.
When scientists encounter a fossil, they often try to puzzle out an explanation for how it got there. Perhaps an animal was stranded or washed off its feet or chased by predators. As I began to observe these records, it was fun to imagine myself as a paleontologist of the urban present. It made me wonder if someone had sprinkled the seeds or dropped a bagel. how long what kind When a leaf didn’t seem to match any of the nearby trees, I wondered if it was an interloper. . Fossils focused my attention on something tangible, but collages past and present on city streets also invited me to wander about how our nonhuman neighbors are also architects. Knowingly or unknowingly we all shed clues about ourselves.
Of course, there is significant evidence from the past. Mammoths sometimes appear in farmers’ fields, their tusks bent like scythes dropped in the soil. Lines of dinosaur footprints still line the banks or beds of some prehistoric rivers and seas. They are amazing, stylish and expressive. I stand in line to see them; I exclaimed happily. But it was a small pleasure to come across subtle and recent evidence of the past, proof that others are out there. Pavement Fossils felt intimate—the paleontological equivalent of a pile of letters hiding under a floorboard.
Only they are not really rare. When sidewalks are under repair, birds and other animals ignore efforts to keep them looking good. Leaves do whatever the wind demands. These fossils are easy to find and we are lucky to have them. As I was languishing in the worst parts of my brain, the sidewalk fossils kicked me out. Unlike many fossils that represent stillness, the moment an animal died and where it remained until humans carved it free, pavement fossils often see continued life. Birds flew somewhere; The dogs, I believe, waved over many sticks and scents. As the sun set and I drove home, the fossils – these little flukes, these interesting accidents – reminded me of small, exciting lives.