Paleontologists use a great variety of tools in their field of work.
They use special equipment to identify fossils once they are extracted.
They also use many different tools in the actual extraction process of the fossil.
Some of these tools are used before the extraction process like the camera, magnifers,
and measuring tapes. The rest of the tools are mainly used for the hard labour in the
extraction process like the chisel, gad/crow bars, etc...These are just some of the
basic tools that an amateur paleontologist will use. There are many more specialized
tools for the professionals to use. There is a detailed list below of the tools
paleontologists use and how they use them.
- Taking pictures of a location is always a good idea. When
you're taking pictures, be sure to always include something to
give your subject a reference size, such as a coin, measuring
tape, or a friend.
- Chipping Hammer
- Like a mason's hammer it has a flat blade at the back end for
splitting or trimming rock. This hammer is very useful when
working in shales or other thinly laminated rock.
- These are used for breaking up rock or removing a little bit
of rock at a time when working close to the specimen.
- Needed if you are keeping good notes on your location or
hiking in remote areas. Used for locating a specimen on a grid
and then finding it again. Most people use the GPS system
- Crack/Sledge Hammer
- These hammers are useful when you are doing some serious
excavation in hard rock or you need to drive large chisels.
- Dental Pick
- For actually getting small fossils loose or exposed from the
rock you need a finely pointed tool. Ice picks, dental picks or
just a small nail stuck in the end of a dowel are handy. Used in
- Dust Brush
- Three types are recommended to remove debris from the area: a
small soft brush, a wide soft brush, and a stiff brush (old
toothbrush). Straw brushes and brooms also can come in handy.
- Gad Pry or Crowbar
- There are times when you need to split larger rocks than your
chisels can handle. The gad pry has a point at one end and a
short right-angled blade at the other for prying layers apart.
Crowbars are useful for turning and moving big stuff and come in
- Geological Hammer
- The classic geologist's pick is always the most useful. It
has a square and flat end for busting rock and striking chisels
and a pointed pick end for digging, turning and splitting
- The most useful size magnifier is the 10X folding lens. With
this power of magnification you can observe most small fossils
and diagnostic detail. A larger 3X-hand lens is also handy for
scanning rock surfaces.
- Measuring Tape
- Used for measuring specimen and recording specimens on a
grid. Also used in photographs as a scale.
- Safety Gear
- Very important. Includes: goggles, work gloves, sunscreen,
shock absorption gloves, dust mask, ear plugs, leggings, steel
toe shoes, and a first aid kit.
- Shoulder and/or Backpack
- On a professional dig most of the heavier equipment would be
driven in as far as possible. Otherwise, all the average fossil
hunter would need is a regular sized backpack.
- A plastic or wire screen is useful for sifting through dirt
or sand. This is often the very best way to search for shark
teeth in creek beds. These are often used in Alberta in their
- A good pair of tweezers will come in handy if you must
collect small pieces without disturbing the matrix or dirt around
- For the Professionals
- Air compressor, pallets, plaster of Paris, buckets, pneumatic
jack hammer, zip gun, mini-jack hammer, hoses, garbage bags, rock saws,
come-along, spray paint, string, vinac, butvar-76 dissolved in acetone
(to consolidate the bones before jacketing in plaster bandages), epoxy,
shovels, fibreglass or burlap, flagging tape, and tents.