Over five hundred million years old! Way older than dinosaurs!
The Burgess Shale fossils are some of the oldest and most complex in the world! They are so important that they have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These fossils represent a complete ecosystem that existed for only a very short time after the first explosion of multicellular life on earth. They are still making new discoveries and finding new animals, which are changing our understanding of early life and evolution! The Burgess Shale is now part of the larger Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site.
The Burgess Shale was discovered by paleontologist Charles Walcott on 30 August 1909. He returned in 1910 with his sons, daughter, and wife, establishing a quarry on the flanks of Fossil Ridge. The significance of soft-bodied preservation, and the range of organisms he recognised as new to science, led him to return to the quarry almost every year until 1924. At that point, aged 74, he had amassed over 65,000 specimens. Describing the fossils was a vast task, pursued by Walcott until his death in 1927.