Chinchilla Sand fossils

For over 150 years fossils have been collected from a variety of locations all over Queensland and are now stored in Queensland Museum Geosciences collections. In the late 1800’s staff were employed specifically to travel around Queensland and collect objects to build the state collections. Two of these employees were Kendall Broadbent and Patrick Wall who worked for the museum between 1887 and 1900.

Kendall Broadbent (Image from Queensland Museum publication, A Time for a Museum)

Kendall was an expert collector of birds and mammals but he loved collecting fossils the most. One of his favourite places to collect was Chinchilla where fossils were easily found in a geological formation called the ‘Chinchilla Sand’, dated at 3.5 million years old. Both Kendall and Patrick knew where to look for these sediments and became very successful fossil hunters. They sent letters to their boss, the director of the museum, Charles de Vis, and Kendall recorded daily in his field diary explaining his travels and his collections.

Kendall Broadbent’s 1886 diary, gun, and specimen skin. © Queensland Museum, Bruce Cowell

In 1887 Patrick writes in a letter explaining he had found 3,000 fossils in 70 days and was sending them back to de Vis for study. It was an exciting time as these fossils were from animals new to science. De Vis became an expert on these amazing extinct animals like Euryzygoma dunense, with its bulging cheek bones, early kangaroos, crocodiles and turtles, to mention just a few.

Euryzygoma dunense. Image credit: Joanne Wilkinson

Fossils are still commonly found in the Chinchilla Sand with fossil donations to Queensland Museum Collection continuing right up to the current day. With such a large number of fossils collected over such a long period of time it’s easy for confusion to arise. Queensland Museum Technician Joanne Wilkinson and Collection Manager Kristen Spring have recently co-authored a paper listing site names and collectors which is published in the Queensland Memoirs, Nature 63. This work will assists future researchers in their studies of the Chinchilla Sand fossils.