What is a fossil?

‘Fossil’ can be defined as the remains of past organisms, generally their hard skeleton, rarely their soft parts. But that is not all. The remains of organisms’ activities are also considered fossils, such as footprints, polen grains and nests, among others.

How long would you have to go back to reach that ‘past’ mentioned in the definition of ‘fossil’?
The limit has been conventionally set, more or less arbitrary, in 10.000 years. This limit coincides with the end of last glaciation.

To sum up, ‘fossil’ is every remain of an organism or of it’s activity, older than 10.000 years.

Fossils are part of Uruguay and world heritage. According to current national legislation they can’t belong to anyone in particular, as they are part of our country’s culture.

The extraction of fossils may be a complicated task, because they are fragile and could break, so it’s better done by a trained person, like a paleontologist.

Before extracting a fossil you also have to take pictures and record information about its position and the sediment. This information is usually much more useful for learning about our past than the fossil itself.