Agate Fossil Beds National Monument
As proposed by the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument Association, Agate, Nebraska
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About 1878 James H. Cook discovered fossils eroding from the outcrop on what is now known as Carnegie Hill. He showed the out-crop to Professor Bailey, Territorial Geologist for the State of Wyoming, in the early 1880's. In 1891, students from the University of Nebraska, under Professor E. H. Barbour, first visited the fossil hills.

In the summer of 1904, Mr. O. A. Peterson from the Carnegie Museum at Pittsburgh came to Agate and with the able assistance of James Cook's young son, Harold, then 17, conducted the first scientific excavation at this site. They discovered a rich quarry, containing a type of rhinoceros that was new to science. Peterson was one of the best collectors of fossils in the country at that time. He collected at the Agate Springs Fossil Quarries for many years and it was he who opened the quarry in the big hill which E. H. Barbour later named Carnegie Hill.

In 1905, Barbour and four students came to Agate and opened a quarry in the side of a hill about one hundred yards north of Carnegie Hill. Barbour named this hill University Hill. Both institutions worked their respective quarries for a number of collecting seasons.

Yale University collected at the Agate Springs Fossil Quarries also at about the same time. The head of the Department of Paleontology, Professor R. S. Lull, came with his chief assistant, Hugh Gibb, and they made a fine collection for the University.

Three Famous Scientists at Carnegie Hill about 1908. Left to Right — Dr. E. H. Barbour, Head of the Geology Department, University of Nebraska; Albert Thompson, American Museum Preparator; and Dr. H. F. Osborn, President of the American Museum.

Stenomylus Quarry in Early 1900's Showing Location of Quarries worked by the American Museum, Yale University, and Amherst College. Courtesy Carnegie Museum

In 1906, Professor F. B. Loomis of Amherst College, an early, able and active paleontologist, joined the collectors with a good-sized party of advanced students. They collected in a small hill which turned out to be a comparatively minor deposit, which Loomis called Amherst Point. However, during the summer of 1907, the Amherst College field party found fragments of a Stenomylus about two miles east of Carnegie Hill. During that season a few shattered fragments were collected; but, on returning the next season the same levels were further excavated, and a fine deposit of these skeletons was discovered. No less than eighteen skulls together with enough disarticulated remains to complete the skeletons were found. Following this, Yale University collected three skeletons, the American Museum five or six skeletons and the Carnegie Museum the same number. During the season of 1909, the Carnegie Museum again collected in this quarry. Remains of other animals are very scarce in these sandstones, but a few isolated bones of Diceratherium, a small double-horned rhinoceros, and the major part of a skeleton of Daphaenodon superbus Peterson, a large dog, and a few bird bones have been found.

Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn, President of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, conducted many research projects at Agate beginning in 1910. That summer several of the American Museum's top technicians and scientific men were there. The chief collector was Albert Thompson. He collected at Agate for about twenty years.

The Field Museum of Natural History (now the Chicago Natural History Museum) collected at the quarries. Other institutions who sent collecting parties in later years include: Chicago University, Harvard University, Princeton University, the Colorado Museum of Natural History, the U. S. National Museum under Dr. J. W. Gidley. the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the Royal Ontario Museum, and many others.

Excavating at the Stenomylus Quarry in 1909 Courtesy Carnegie Museum

Removal of Diceratherium slab from Carnegie Hill for shipment in the early 1900's Courtesy American Museum

Taking out Daimonelix specimens (Devil's Corkscrews) in the Early 1900's Courtesy Carnegie Museum

University Hill in 1908 named for the University of Nebraska which worked the site. Courtesy University of Nebraska State Museum

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Last Updated: 12-Nov-2010