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Families uncover traces of history at rock quarry

SYCAMORE – It all started when David Glaum stumbled across an interesting rock while working in a Kingston field last spring.

When he took it home and washed it off, he noticed an odd imprint and decided to have an expert look at it. Glaum, of Genoa, took the rock to the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford and found out that the imprint created by a form of algae – 450 million years ago.

"That got me interested," he said Saturday while kneeling beside a small ridge of rocks with a brush, hammer and shovel nearby.

Glaum was one of about 30 people who dug for fossils Saturday at the Vulcan Materials Company quarry in Sycamore. Now that Glaum has a piece of ancient history displayed on his mantle at home, he said he's hooked on digging for more pieces like it.

"When I heard about this, I figured I'd come out here and see what I can find and learn more about the world," Glaum said. "It's hard to believe this was all once under the ocean."

Saturday's dig, hosted by the Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore, drew many individuals and families who wanted to experience firsthand what it's like to uncover history.

Kevin Huey, general superintendent for the quarry, said Vulcan Materials Company, which mines grade-A rocks to use in concrete, said the 500-acre quarry draws schools, teachers and history lovers from all over who want to find fossils.

He said fossil hunters Saturday were digging just under the Silurian layer, which is a layer of ground found in the Ordovician Period about 450 million years ago.

"It's old," he said. "I think the clay makes it so much easier to find [fossils]."

They weren't too difficult to come by – at least not for Qiana Hardy and her son, Imtihaan, 4, of Sycamore. Imtihaan wants to become a paleontologist, so Hardy thought Saturday's dig would make a good outing.

"He can tell you the name of any dinosaur A to Z," she said.

Any fossils found Saturday could go home with families. Hardy said when they got home, they planned to identify their findings, which included some coral and a brachipod fossil. She said Imtihaan also looked forward to inspecting them under his microscope.

Jessica Williams, a volunteer with the Midwest Museum of Natural History, helped coordinate Saturday's dig. She said the museum does all kinds of special events that revolve around natural history – and the more hands-on they are, the better.

"We try to get out and do something interactive, and this lets [kids] take something home to show their friends," she said.

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