Pioneers of Paleontology
Petrified Forest is a laboratory where scientists stucy
not only the fossil record, but the records of earlier
discoveries by naturalists and paleontologists.
Interest in the area's fossils goes back to 1853, when a
U.S. Army expedition discovered the Black Forest in
what would become the park's northern section. Later,
at the request of General William Tecumseh Sherman,
two petrified logs from that area were acquired for the
Conservationist John Muir collected fossils and named
some of the park's "forests" in the early 1900s, when he
was living in neaby Adamana.
Annie Alexander and a companion discovered some of
the first fossil reptiles and amphibians in 1921. They
brought their findings to the attention of Charles L.
Camp, who went on to spend nearly a decade studying
the fossil vertebrates of the area.
These scientists are just some of the paleontological\
pioneers who laid the foundation of current studies
into the park's treasure trove of fossils.
Dr. Charles L. Camp (right) published a definitive study of
phytosaurs based largely on fossils he collected in the area.
Phytosaurs were predatory reptiles that were 20 to 30 feet (9m) in length
and lived in and along the waterways in the Late Trassic period. Phytosaurs
are one of the most common vertebrate fossils found in the park.
John Muir was one of the first to study the fossils in the area. Muir
was a good friend of President Theodore Roosevelt, who set aside
Petrified Forest as a national monument in 1906.
Dr. Charles L. Camp's field research station was located in 1921 near
his phytosaur quarries.