The Burgess Shale

The discovery of fossils

In 1907, Charles Walcott, a New York palaeontologist and head of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, came to the high slopes of Mount Stephen, British Columbia located in Yoho National Park to examine the “stone bugs” that railway workers, surveyors and others had come across while working on the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. The stone bugs turned out to be fossils dating back more than 505 million years. In 1909, he explored another ridge and discovered what became known as the Walcott Quarry.

Go to the History section of this site for more information on the history of the Burgess Shale, and to the Fossil Gallery and Virtual Sea Odyssey sections to see images of fossils and digital animations.

Land surveyors (above) and railway workers in the 1880s were among those who came across "stone bugs" while exploring the areas near the early Field, BC townsite.
Land surveyors (above) and railway workers in the 1880s were among those who came across "stone bugs" while exploring the areas near the early Field, BC townsite.
PHOTO: © MCCORD MUSEUM