A 6-Year-Old Girl Went Digging in the Dirt and Found a 65 Million-Year-Old Fossil

In October, a 6-year-old named Naomi was digging a hole instead of watching her sister’s soccer game in Bend, Oregon, when she found what she calls her “Moana rock.” It was not the heart of Te Fiti—it was a 65 million-year-old ammonite fossil. That’s still kinda magic.

CNN reports that Naomi’s family didn’t discover until this month that the fossil was more than just a lump of garbage. But Naomi knew, according to her dad Darin Vaughan.

“She knew it right away,” said Vaughan. “I’m not sure I would’ve.”

Ammonite fossils are fairly common, but they haven’t been recorded in Bend. A very fancy ammonite could sell for quite a bit of money, and in a few cases they’ve gone for as much as $50,000. They can also get quite large, as you can see in this weirdly intimate photo from Getty of a man gently polishing his prize at an antique’s fair:

Illustration for article titled A 6-Year-Old Girl Went Digging in the Dirt and Found a 65 Million-Year-Old Fossil
Image: Getty

Naomi’s fits in her hand, and as it is long dead, it will grow no bigger. But think how it will expand her mind. CNN spoke with director of paleontological collections at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Greg Retallack, who said he too found his first fossil at six. That’s the call for archeologists; it’s like getting a letter from Hogwarts.

“This is how we all start,” said Retallack, adding, “And I never looked back.” (Aren’t all archeologists always looking back, though?) 

Naomi has been allowed to keep her fossil. Though an out-of-the-ordinary find in her hometown, there isn’t enough information about it to make it “scientifically significant,” meaning it may have fallen out of someone’s pocket at the soccer game or not originated in Bend, who knows.

...But that does give me a good idea for how to get lots of little kids on a path to science!

Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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I discovered mine by digging, too: on etsy. The top one is about five inches across.

They’re beautiful, and mind boggling. I gave one to a friend who was turning fifty, and told him to look at it whenever he felt “old.”