Geologist believes fossil found in Raleigh County mine could be 315 million years old


Geologist believes fossil found in Raleigh County mine could be 315 million years old
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 9:43 AM EST
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HARPER, W.Va. (WVVA) - When you think of the coal mines in Southern West Virginia, your first thought might be about jobs, electricity, or energy. But beneath the rock used to fuel the country lie buried treasures, some of which could be hundreds of millions of years old.

Earl Wesley Bragg said he found such a fossil in the early 1980s, stumbling across it on his way out of a mine beneath Harper Heights one day. “I was kind of amazed. I didn’t realize anything like that would be in our area.”

He was initially convinced it was a sea turtle. “We picked it up, looked at it, looked around and the body of the turtle was up in the top.” He described what appeared to be a shell four feet wide.

In an effort to learn more about the fossil, WVVA News tracked down a local geologist with expertise in mining by the name of John Rusnak. He said the mine in which the fossil was found, Eccles number six, is 315 million years old -- a time period that pre-dates the dinosaurs. He said the more likely explanation for the fossil would be that it comes from a calamites stem -- a common plant from that time period.

Either way, for Bragg, it is a treasure from a time long before the dinosaurs roamed the earth. “I didn’t really think it was a treasure when I found it. I brought it out because it was unique.”

A sign of life from millions of years ago, forever frozen in time.