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ECU sends relics to area schools

(Oct. 3, 2000)   —   Talk about being old! When East Carolina University's geology department surveyed its closets recently, the items gathering dust in dark spaces were vast collections of materials buried away for millions of years. Literally!

There were fossils of all shapes and sizes from tiny plant stems to the bones of sea mammals. Most ranged in age from three to 45 million years old and all were duplicates of the fossils that the department displays in glass cases in hallways and classrooms.

Questions about what to do with the overload -- many of them found by geology students over the years and others donated by collectors -- prompted ECU's Sigma Gamma Epsilon geology honor society to suggest giving them away…to public schools.

"They were just sitting in the closets and not being seen by anyone," said Leigh Hazelton, a geology student from Murfreesboro and the honor society's vice president.

"We wanted to do something to help kids learn about earth science," she said. Hazelton and other geology students assembled nearly 30 individual sets of fossils containing an assortment of 28 different types. They donated the sets during Earth Sciences Week (Oct. 8 - 14) to the elementary, middle grade and high schools in Pitt County.

The sets contained a variety of gastropods or marine snails, a sea urchin, a vertebra from a whale, skate jaws and several other bones from aquatic mammals. Each of the sets contained an identification key and a pamphlet about the kinds of fossils that have been recovered in a phosphate mining operation near Aurora, N.C., about 45 miles east of the ECU campus.

The material had been collected from the Yorktown and Castle Hayne Formations of North Carolina and the Pinecrest Formation of Florida. Fossils in these formations were deposited millions of years ago when the Coastal Plain was submerged by the ocean as far west as Interstate 95.