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May 24, 2016 > New Ice Age Fossil exhibit opens at ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum

New Ice Age Fossil exhibit opens at ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum

Submitted By Joyce Blueford

The City of Fremont is noted for its Ice Age fossils found along the Hayward Fault Zone. Recently a cache of younger Ice Age fossils were discovered in Fremont during a pipeline seismic retrofit by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC). The significance of these fossils provides new information on the time period of the latest Ice Age (Pleistocene) when humans were known to inhabit California (10,000 to 15,000 years ago). A new display at the ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum incorporates them into existing exhibits of the middle Pleistocene (Irvingtonian) fossils to tell a more complete story of Ice Age California.

A grand opening celebrations of the new exhibit will include a lecture at the Fremont Main Library (May 31), Open Houses for local businesses (June 3), a family ÒMammothÓ event including fossil hunting in our new Prehistoric Garden (June 4), and a field trip in Sabercat Creek Historical Park with the famed Boy Paleontologist, Phil Gordon (June 5).

The ÒnewÓ fossils were discovered as the SFPUC seismically upgraded two large water transmission lines that cross over the Hayward Fault near Highway 680 and Mission Boulevard in Fremont. In August of 2013, construction crews found what turned out to be the upper leg bone, or humerus, of a bison. The bison is an important index fossil for the start of the Rancholabrean Age. Crews would later find more than 50 other fossil specimens from the last Ice Age.

ÒWe did not expect to find these Ice Age fossils while upgrading our water transmission lines,Ó said Dan Wade, Program Director of the SFPUCÕs $4.8 billion Hetch Hetchy Water System Improvement Program. ÒIt is extremely important to us that these fossils be properly curated and cared for and be made available to scholars and students. We could not have found a more perfect partner than the local ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum.Ó

Paleontologist Jim Walker identified most of the fossils, concluding that these fossils represented the youngest layer of Ice Age rock (Rancholabrean) ever found in Fremont.


This portion of the East Bay hosted many animals that are familiar to us today, like deer, rabbits, pocket gophers, and coyote. Animals that later became extinct in North America also roamed this area, such as the western horse and camel. Camels actually originated in North America and migrated to Asia and beyond via the ÒLand BridgeÓ between North American and Asia. Bison at this time were about 20 percent larger than their modern relatives and moved from Asia to North America. Columbian Mammoths, huge ground sloths, saber-toothed cats, and short-faced bear also lived in this area during the Rancholabrean period. We know this because their remains have been found in other fossil deposits.

The name Rancholabrean stems from La Brea Tar Pits in Southern California, where the first ÒindexÓ specimens from this time period were found. The La Brea Tar Pits continue to be the worldÕs premier location for Pleistocene animal fossils.


The SFPUC also donated another group of fossils belonging to the slightly older Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age, including freshwater snails, fish, mussels, and crayfish as well as reptiles and amphibians from what must have been a freshwater lake in that location. These older fossils are time equivalent to the fossils already on display in the museum.

The Irvingtonian in the East Bay was warmer than today with large plains and rivers. The Columbian Mammoth was abundant. In fact, the Irvingtonian takes its name from the Irvington District in Fremont, and can be directly attributed to a group of ÒÔboy paleontologistsÓ and their mentor, Wes Gordon. For more than 10 years in the 1940s, Gordon and his students excavated tens of thousands of fossils from a gravel quarry in Fremont. Although the majority of the fossils went to the University of California Berkeley, some of the collection went to the San Lorenzo School District, where Gordon worked. In 2004, the Gordon family approached the Math Science Nucleus in Fremont to take on this collection, and it has been housed at the ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum ever since.

If you are a fossil lover or want to learn more about this rich history in the Fremont area, please attend the free lecture on May 31 when Dr. Blueford from the Math Science Nucleus will discuss the fossils of Fremont. If you want to bring your family with little ones, come to ÒMammoth DayÓ on June 4 and have a fun fossil day. On June 5 there will be a field trip to Sabercat Creek in Fremont with Phil Gordon to walk on the land where Mammoths once roamed.

For more information and registration go to the Math Science Nucleus website,

Ice Age Fossils Lecture
Tuesday, May 31
7 p.m. Ð 8 p.m.
Fremont Main Library
2400 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont
(510) 745-1400

Corporate Open House
Friday, Jun 3
2 p.m. Ð 6 p.m.
ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum
4074 Eggers Dr, Fremont
(510) 790-6284

Mammoth Day
Saturday, Jun 4
11 a.m. Ð 4 p.m.
ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum
4074 Eggers Dr, Fremont
(510) 790-6284
Cost: $4 adults, $8 children; $6 child members, free adults

Sabercat Walk with Phil Gordon
Sunday, Jun 5
10:30 a.m. - noon
ChildrenÕs Natural History Museum
4074 Eggers Dr, Fremont
(510) 790-6284
Cost: $15

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