Fossils & Meteorites

Fossils & Meteorites

Earth Sciences at The Field Museum are focused on paleontology, systematics, evolutionary theory and meteoritics. Most of our paleontologists take an interdisciplinary approach in their research programs, combining fossil and living organisms together to extract information of broad evolutionary significance. Current research within the Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics and Polar Studies is on presolar grains to afford insights into our parent stars and the history of our Galaxy.

Our geological collections of fossils and meteorites are world renowned, drawing researchers from around the globe. Field Museum scientists, together with colleagues at local universities, form one of the nation's largest concentrations of paleontologists, and one of the key meteoritics research groups in the world. They are active in education through the training of graduate and undergraduate students, the development of exhibits, and a number of special programs for the public.

The Field Museum collections of fossils and meteorites are world renowned, drawing researchers from around the globe to study them. The scientists in the Department of Geology, together with colleagues at local universities, form one of the nation's largest concentrations of paleontologists, and one of the key meteoritics research groups in the world. The Department's staff are active in education through the training of graduate and undergraduate students, the development of exhibits, and a number of special programs for the public.

    pmakovicky's picture
    Peter Makovicky
    Curator
    Integrative Research Center

Fossils & Meteorites Collections

Mazon Creek flora

In 1673, the first coal found in the New World was reported from along the Illinois River near Utica in LaSalle County (Ledvina, 1997). In the mid-19th century, another important find was made in the same area; Middle Pennsylvanian aged fossils were discovered along one of the tributaries of the Illinois River, the Mazon Creek (Shabica and Hay, 1997).

A re-creation of a Pennsylvanian Coal Swamp, with surprisingly tall ferns, horsetails, and lycophytes that dominated tropical Carboniferous forests.

Mazon Creek Fossil Invertebrates

One of the strengths of the Field Museum's invertebrate fossil collection is its Mazon Creek invertebrate collection. Totaling over 40,000 specimens it is one of the most comprehensive collections in the world of this unique fossil fauna.      

A Charles Knight mural depicting an ice age scene with a herd of woolly mammoths and two woolly rhinoceros making their way across the frozen plain.

Photo Archives - Charles Knight Collection

In the early 1920s, among Knight's great admirers was Dr. George Kunz, the renowned gemologist for Tiffany. Visiting Knight's studio, Kunz was struck by the fact that The Field Museum did not own any of Knight's work. Dr. Kunz worked with Knight's daughter Lucy, to secure a contract to create his biggest commission yet: a series of 28 murals to enclose the Museum's new fossil hall. The murals show the development of life on earth, from its earliest origins through the ages of amphibians, reptiles and mammals. Knight and Lucy traveled to Chicago in 1926 to begin the project.

A composite image of four photos from past museum expeditions.

Photo Archives - Expedition Collection

In the early 1900's, the four scientific departments collected in North, Central and South America, and Africa.  Artifacts and natural science materials were collected, but photographs made on the trips would likely include scenery, architecture and people.