GRAY, Tenn. (WKRN) – One of Tennessee’s most fossil-rich dig sites was only discovered a couple of decades ago, but it has millions of years of history still waiting to be uncovered.

The Gray Fossil site in East Tennessee offers a unique view into the past 5 million years, and it was roadwork that led to its discovery.

David Moscato is the Science Communication Specialist at the Gray Fossil site he said, “In the year 2000, TDOT came down to rebuild the road and to take down the hill. And, while they were taking down the hill, they discovered this ancient pond deposit full of fossils totally by accident.”

Not only is the site incredibly rich in specimens, with over 33,000 cataloged so far, but it also has fossils that cannot be found anywhere else.

“Our fossils date back to a time period called the early Pliocene Epoch, which is about 5 million years old. And there are no other sites anywhere near here of a similar age, which means that we are digging into a time period that isn’t found anywhere else nearby,” said Moscato.

This site has even produced full skeletons of rhinos and mammoths.

“We have fossils of fish, and frogs and turtles and rodents, like mice and rabbits. And we’ve got some things that are surprising and unusual compared to what we have today, like rhinos, alligators, tapers, and red pandas. And then we have some groups of animals here that are totally extinct, like saber-toothed cats and mastodons and ground sloths.”

Moscato said one of the best things about the Gray Fossil site is the public can get in on the action.

“We have a Summer Camp program run by our partners, the Hands On Discovery Center. We have a thriving volunteer program, which is for 16-and-up, where volunteers get to participate in the process.”

In fact, without the help of volunteers, they wouldn’t have been able to uncover as much as they have at the site.

“This is a place that really has opportunities for people of all different backgrounds to get involved in some way, whether it’s learning about it or whether it’s actually being out here in digging.” He continued, “This site not only has opportunities for a whole community, but if it weren’t for this being a community effort, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are today.”

For more information on how to get involved with the Gray Fossil site click on this link.