Aurora, NC is a quiet town just south of the Pamlico River in rural North Carolina. It has
a population of well under 1000. Although this is a small rural town, there is a rich geologic
history lying beneath Aurora. This makes it the capitol of the world for many fossil
The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS) is currently operating a large phosphate mine
in Aurora. In the process of prospecting for phosphate, the mine digs through several
fertile fossil-bearing formations. This gives
paleontologists and fossil enthusiasts a
unique opportunity to collect and study this rich fossil bearing material.
Aurora has a Museum devoted to the geologic diversity found under the town. The
Aurora Fossil Museum
contains a wide array of fossil displays collected from the PCS phosphate mine.
These displays include numerous shark dentitions, including the jaws of a Giant Megatoothed
shark, to a walrus skull and a whale skull. The museum also has a room devoted to native
American artifacts from the area. Also, the PCS mine dumps piles of fossil bearing sediments
at the museum for visitors to search through.
Brief Geologic History:
Throughout the Tertiary, North Carolina was part of the Albemarle Embayment. The Albemarle
Embayment was one of the large embayments of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The other was the
Salisbury Embayment, which presently takes the form of the Chesapeake Bay. The two embayments
are collectively called the SAE (Salisbury and Albemarle Embayment)
Similar to the Salisbury Embayment, this embayment may have acted as a calving ground for
whales. The embayment housed a large diversity of life, including reptiles, and all kinds
of fish, including sharks such as C. megalodon. It housed numerous marine mammals
large baleen whales, porpoises, seals, and sea cows. Sea going birds also thrived in this
embayment. Also, remains of land mammals that washed out to sea can occasionally be found
including horses and camels.
Throughout the Tertiary, sediments and animal remains were deposited into formations. The
two most popular formations (fossil-wise) are the Pungo River (Miocene) and Yorktown (Pliocene).
Many other formations were also deposited ranging from the Eocene formations to Pleistocene
formations (James City Formation). The PCS Phosphate mine digs through these formations
in search of phosphate that has accumulated in this ancient embayment.
This video shows the draglines in action digging through the Yorktown and Pungo River Formations in order to get to the phosphate bed.
To see all my fossil videos, go to my Youtube page: Thefossilguy100.
Collecting locations at Aurora, NC, and Coastal Spots
Before you collect these tertiary fossils, I highly recommend a visit first to the
Aurora Fossil Museum.
There you can see the type of fossils to look for, and even fossil hunt at
their spoil pile across the street from the museum.
Collecting at the Mine:
Please note, due to safety reasons, the PCS mine is CLOSED to fossil collecting.
The PCS Phosphate mine does not allow fossil collecting at the mine.
However, the mine tailings that contain fossils are brought to the Aurora Fossil Museum:
Tailings at the Aurora Fossil Museum:
Aurora Fossil Museum. The Museum also has a spoil pile right across the street for
visitors look through & collect fossils.
If you are collecting at a tailing pile, I would recommend bringing a shovel and sifter to
sift through the piles. It will really increase the number fossils you find.
Emerald Island, NC
Other Locations to find the same fossils
Topsail Beach and Emerald Island
These beaches have Miocene and Pliocene rock outcroppings on the shelf just offshore. Water erodes this outcropping, setting fossil shark teeth free.
Eventually they wash ashore. Although the large fossils rarely wash ashore, small ones are common.
Search the shell areas near the surf. Be patient and go through scoop after scoop. You'll eventually find the fossil shark teeth.
The teeth from these beaches are from the same type of sharks as at Aurora, so the identifications will be the same.
The fossils are usually black with some streaks of other dark colors. The black is from phosphate minerals replacing the original material.
Black bone fragments are sometimes found as well.
Recommended things to bring for fossil collecting at Aurora, NC
Plenty of water: It can get hot in the mine!
A snack: You will most likely be in the mine from around 9:00 – 3:00.
Kneepads: You may be crawling often.
A walking stick, or shovel/rake: The terrain is rough, a walking stick or similar object may
aid in locomotion.
Small bags or containers: To place fossils in.
Large bucket: To place larger finds in, such as whale vertebra.
A small rock hammer or screwdriver: Incase there is a fossil in a large chunk of limestone
This is a new field guide for locating and identifying fossil shark teeth on the beaches of North and South Carolina.
It is filled with clear photographs and easy to read descriptions.
There's not too many books about North Carolina Sharks teeth. This one's pretty good!
A great book for identifying all those teeth. This book is laid out "as simple as possible." It's ease of use and small size makes it great to carry during collecting trips.
Seal/Dolphin ~ Phoca/Stenella: A Skeletal Comparison of Two Marine Mammals
by John R. Timmerman
North Carolina Fossil Club Inc.
This is a very good book if you want to attempt to identify the numerous bone fragments encountered at this site.
This book can be purchased through the North Carolina Fossil Club - When at their website, click on the
A Great new book about megatoothed sharks. A nice read for anyone interested in megalodons.
It has sections dedicated to megalodon evolution, extinction, pathologies, and locations of meg fossil-hunting grounds around the world.
Links to other websites about Aurora, NC:
The best site on the web! Dedicated to Lee Creek, and many other sites!