Creative Science 19 – Fossilization

He will be buried with a donkey’s burial, Dragged off and thrown out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” Jer 22:19 (NASB)

There are six main fossilization processes. These processes are observable and repeatable under laboratory conditions, if not in nature. Most require water or rapid burial in sediment or both. Almost all fossils present on earth today can easily be explained by a planetary flood but cannot be satisfactorily explained by supposing many small local catastrophes over millions of years.

Freezing is extremely rare in nature today, although numerous animals have been found frozen into fossils. They are preserved in part or whole, even with hair and flesh intact. Most have been found along the northern parts of Siberia and Alaska and include thousands of wooly mammoths, bear, rhinoceros, and other mammals. A few have even been found with food still in their mouths and undigested food in their stomachs. This  indicates the animals were frozen suddenly and conditions were such that scavengers were unable to consume them. If an animal is trapped under an avalanche, for example, it would be protected from scavengers, but it would probably live long enough to swallow what was in its mouth. In many cases the places where they are found are on frozen planes. This makes burial by a normal avalanche extremely unlikely.

Most scientists agree that the polar regions were once much warmer than they are today. Frozen tropical animals makes it clear that the temperature change was extreme and sudden. Either the atmosphere changed or the landmass suddenly moved to a cold place, or both. Whichever is the case, the event impacted a vast region seemingly simultaneously. This is suggested by the fact that there is no indication that once frozen these animals were ever thawed and refrozen. If that happened they would have rotted or been picked clean by scavengers. Many of these animals have been found with almost no deterioration at all.

Extremely rapid freezing of a tropical area seems highly unlikely in the uniformitarian model if for no other reason than large scale catastrophes of any kind are denied. Some people theorize that atmospheric debris from an asteroid wiped out most of the dinosaurs and caused an ice age. There are several difficulties with this theory. With regard to frozen remains of tropical animals in polar regions, It seems extremely unlikely that even large amounts of dirt in the atmosphere would have cause the surface to cool fast enough in such a vast area to account for the abundance of frozen remains.

Leaving aside human theories, the biblical account provides an historical record that offers much more plausible explanations for the evidence at hand. One scientific theory based on the biblical account is that the animals were alive before the flood and were frozen early in the flood. Water vapor in the atmosphere may have caused a more uniform temperature around the planet. As the atmosphere suddenly released great amounts of water, polar regions experienced rapid freezing. Northern Alaska and Siberia could have experienced a temperature drop of 100°F or more in a matter of hours. Another variation on this theory is that when fountains of the deep broken open, tectonic plates moved whole continents from tropical to polar regions in a few days or possibly hours.

Fossilized hard animal parts (bones and shells) are most common type of fossil. Usually when an animal dies its soft parts rot or get consumed by scavengers and the bones disintegrate over time. In some cases bones get buried in sediment. Bones get preserved as fossils when the sediment hardens into rock before the bones have a chance to disintegrate. Most limestone and sandstone fossils are of this type. The most likely cause of this type of fossilization is a flood.

The numbers and densities of such deposits around the world testify to massive sudden flooding. The uniformitarian model would require hundreds if not thousands of major localized floods trapping thousands of organisms, large and small. The flood of Noah, however, accounts for all such fossils.

Castings are similar to fossilized hard parts except that none of the original organism remains. Sediments cover the animal and harden. The animal inside dissolves. Water seeping into the cavity carries minerals in and organic waste out. The casting is eventually filled and formed. The result is a replica in part or whole of the original animal. The cast must be formed quickly with some sort of cementing process. Burial by flood debris is much more common than volcanic burial, yet bodies found in Pompeii are an excellent example of natural castings. The volcanic rock covered and quickly cooled to form casts around the bodies. The bodies themselves eventually rotted and rainwater filled in the casting with sediment to form fossil castings.

The most beautiful and exotic fossils are those of soft animals. Particularly unique are jellyfish fossils, although any fossil of soft marine life is amazing. Fish are notoriously carnivorous. Dead soft marine parts almost never go uneaten by sea scavengers. Jellyfish are entirely soft, made mostly of water. Short of a violent flood of biblical proportions to carry and churn vast amounts of sediment there is no logical explanation for sudden burial of ocean creatures like jellyfish.

Petrifaction is another fossilization process similar to castings. The filling material is typically carried into the casting by underground water carrying minerals. The petrified forests of Yellowstone Park and in Arizona are well known examples of this type of fossilization. As with castings, petrifaction requires very rapid burial and cementing of the mold around the original plant or animal life followed by a period of minerals being carried by water into the void left by the decay of the original organism. The vast petrified forests discovered in these places require a very rapid and large-scale hydraulic (flood) event to bury the quantity of life found there.

Fossilized tracks are the next kind of fossil. Tracks of all sorts of animal life, including humans, become fossils when the soft surface is cemented by powerful hydraulic force then gets covered by softer sediment. The tracks harden and can later be uncovered when the softer sediment is removed. Tracks of all sorts of creatures have been found in fossil beds around the world.

Fossils found in coal are the result of a different fossilization process called carbonization. In this process hydrogen and oxygen largely disappear leaving mostly carbon. Coal has been found in nearly every region of Earth including Antarctica. Coal is believed to be the end product of metamorphism of tremendous quantities of plant remains. Coal seams vary from a few inches to several feet of depth and may run in alternating layers with other sedimentary rock such as limestone. The density of the coal means either plants morphed into coal over a vast period or there was a vast amount of vegetation buried together suddenly. Alternating layers are explained in the uniformitarian model by saying an area alternated between forest and arid land over vast periods. The catastrophic Biblical model explains the layers as the result of shifting currents pushing and pressing accumulations of flood debris into layers buried rapidly. Although we have various peat bogs and the La Brea tar pits with us today, none of these demonstrate examples of coal formation or fossilization by carbonization today.

Except for freezing, all of the other fossilization methods require burial by flood or volcanic eruption. Castings, petrifaction and tracks specifically require water as part of the process. Carbonization requires water to be drawn out of organic material under great pressure. Uniformitarianism offers repeating cycles of local flooding as the explanation. Repeated limited locals floods fail to explain the density and distribution of fossils, sedimentary rock deposits, coal seams, and the worlds vast oil and natural gas reservoirs. Only the biblical flood offers a succinct single explanation for all of the fossil remains, limestone, coal and oil with its vast and diverse distribution.

Most fossilization methods require rapid burial. Cementing action takes very little time. The existence of fossils does not, in and of itself, require vast time. Only the theory of Evolution combined with geological Uniformitarianism requires vast time.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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5 Responses to Creative Science 19 – Fossilization

  1. Todd Beal says:

    I tell ya Lance, you’re a repository of awesome information: from Habakkuk to cosmology to fossils. I enjoyed learning more about the fossilization process – something that caught my attention as a child.

    See what you make of this. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I was cutting wood with my dad when we came upon a partially-fossilized chunk of wood, roughly 18 inches in diameter by roughly 18 to 24 inches long. That was pretty cool all by itself, but the crazy part about it was that someone had cut the wood with a chainsaw prior to its fossilization. That image was immediately burned into my mind and I doubt I will ever forget it: the same piece of wood was partially organic and partially fossilized, and it was cut with a chainsaw prior to fossilization. How could this happen?

  2. Lance Ponder says:

    Todd, I am not surprised at all by your “unusual” find. Fossilization does not take long at all, at least not thousands of years. It can take just weeks or months if conditions are right. [] This is a link to a site that shows a few modern fossils like a hat and a ham. I once saw a photo Ken Ham had of a fossilized ham (there are at least two known fossil hams – one in Iowa and one is Asia). It was pretty funny – Ham holding a fossil ham. Anyway, it does take special circumstances, but not so special it couldn’t happen just about anywhere. That’s still cool. Most people have no idea how quickly an object can become a fossil.

    • Todd Beal says:


      The link you provided gave numerous examples of petrified wood from around the world but gave no real scientific information. So, I googled “partially fossilized wood” and found an excellent Answers in Genesis article: ‘Instant’ petrified wood. This article explains how wood wicks up different mineral solutions and within a short period of time, the wood petrifies (sometimes in less than a year). I make high quality custom pens and pencils on my wood lathe, and I want to try this process for making rock hard, durable finishes. Thanks for your article Lance.

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