Finding Fossil Wood (Lignite) on the Isle of Wight

You can usually find fossil wood quite easily; indeed it's all some people ever seem to find! However, if you want to know how to find it, here is a little guide.

Fossil wood is black, often due to being caught in forest fires 120 million years ago, but also due to remineralisation with iron. Often you can see the grain of the wood in the fossil, and sometimes even impressions of the bark.

The wood is very similar to fossil bone in appearance, but there are differences. Firstly, lignite is usually lighter than bone, although this is not always the case. Secondly, weathered bone is usually lighter in colour than lignite, although again sometimes the colour is almost identical. You can try tapping the "bone" with a tuning fork, as this will produce a higher ringing sound if it is bone. However, there is little chance of you actually owning a tuning fork, although tweezers will do the same job. Thirdly, if you wet the "specimen" and then scratch it with your fingernail (unless, like me, you bite them, in which case, a plastic knife or spoon will do) then rub it on your finger, if there is a black smudge, then it's wood. However, sometime if the lignite is too wet, there isn't a visible smudge, so you can't tell. Finally, you can look for the honeycomb structure that is present in bone, but not lignite.

Fossil wood comes in all shapes and sizes. You can find small twigs, larger branches and even larger logs. These logs can act as traps, allowing bones and any other small remains to accumulate, and produce a fossil "jam". This is one of the reasons why such "Log-jams" are excellent places to find fossils.Simon Clabby 2006

setstats 1