Every day, hundreds — sometimes thousands — of people take a leisurely shopping-stroll through the upscale mall in Charlotte known as “SouthPark.” Surprisingly — perhaps because the shop windows are so attractively decorated to display the most chic of modern clothing — the great majority of the shoppers have never noticed that they are walking on limestone tiles replete with prehistoric fossils from the Cretaceous and Ordovician Periods (hundreds of millions of years ago). Many interesting, sharply-delineated fossils are distinctly visible at a glance when walking on this virtual geologic treasure-trove.

Since the tiles are cross-sections, sometimes the objects seen are partial portions and otherwise specifically unidentifiable, but they are all — even to the most naive viewer — recognizably biologic in origin; their organization and shapes are obviously organic.

Beautiful cross sections of ammonites (nautilus) and other fossils are easily found. The flat, polished tiles are readily photographed with that camera in your telephone. No need to drive to the wilds and climb mountains carrying picks, hammers, brushes, shovels and a backpack — just take an afternoon stroll through “The Mall,” stop for a casual snack at the Food Court, and walk and look downward — the easiest geologic survey on the planet, with great shopping to boot.

Management of the mall is well aware of the fossils in the flooring — have been for many years. In the past, several colleges have brought classes of geology students to see, study and classify the fossils; descriptions, and analyses of species-classification have been published in the scientific literature.

The tiles themselves were imported from Turkey during the construction of the mall. Fossil-containing limestone is well known to be found in Iran, Turkey, Lebanon and other locations in Eastern Europe.

Any science teacher could guarantee her/his class a safe, scientific geologic project by arranging a simple day-trip to SouthPark to explore its Jurassic walkways.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily newsletter.

Recommended for you