Art Contest 2022

illustration National Fossil Day stamp with postmark

About the NFD Art Contest

Theme: “The Age of Mammals in our National Parks and Monuments”
The National Park Service and National Fossil Day partners are sponsoring an art contest to celebrate the 13th annual National Fossil Day. The 2022 National Fossil Day celebration is scheduled for Wednesday, October 12, 2022, during Earth Science Week. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park and the 50th year anniversary of Fossil Butte National Monument, our theme for this year's art contest is: “The Age of Mammals in our National Parks and Monuments”. Both Yellowstone National Park and Fossil Butte National Monument preserve fossils of plants and animals that lived during the Eocene epoch (approximately 56 to 34 million years ago), which was part of the early beginnings of the Cenozoic Era. The 2022 National Fossil Day Poster features plants and animals that lived during the early Eocene at Yellowstone National Park.

The Cenozoic Era (66 million years ago to present)

is known as the “Age of Mammals” based on the fossil record which shows that mammals flourished after the Mesozoic Era, 66 million years ago, filling in the ecological gaps left by the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs and marine reptiles. Mammals began to grow large, and diversify. Some became adapted to marine life, and one group, bats, took to the air. This is also the time when avian-dinosaurs (birds), pollinating insects, and flowering plants flourished. More recently, near the end of the Cenozoic, our human ancestors evolved and adapted to become one of the most influential species on the planet today as the Cenozoic continues.

The National Park Service has multiple parks and monuments that have unique records of fossils dating to the Cenozoic Era. Our 2022 National Fossil Day Art Contest will challenge participants to choose one or more Cenozoic epochs and the parks that represents those epochs and create a visual piece based the fossils found in the epoch and park you have chosen. Here are some examples of the National Park Service units that represent the six epochs of the Cenozoic:


The true beginning of the “Age of Mammals”, the Paleocene (66 to 56 million years ago) spans a period which was warm and wet dominated by tropical environments. Non-dinosaurian reptiles such as crocodiles and turtles still flourished in North America. This is also the last epoch when champsosaurs, crocodile-like reptiles that appeared during the Mesozoic, lived before going extinct in North America by the beginning of the Eocene. Mammals at this time were just beginning to evolve into larger forms and were sharing tropical forests with large herbivorous birds such as Gastornis. National Parks Service sites that preserve rocks and fossils from the Paleocene include Big Bend National Park in Texas and Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.


The Eocene (56 to 34 million years ago) was a warm and wet period with tropical temperate rainforests covering much of North America. However, by the end of the Eocene, the world was beginning to cool and become drier, with the transition to more open grasslands starting to be evident. The Eocene marks the point in time when mammals started to reach large sizes. Titanotheres, early rhino-like relatives to horses, tapirs and rhinos, were one of the first mammalian herbivores to reach large sizes. Some of these titanotheres, like Megacerops, were 2.5 meters (more than 8 feet) tall, weighed more than 3 tons, and bore a Y-shaped horn on the end of the nose. Some early mammal carnivores also grew large, such as Hyaenodon horridus which was about the size of a large wolf. Fossils of titanotheres and Hyaenodon have been found at Badlands National Park in South Dakota along with early horses, saber-toothed carnivores, and little sheep-like mammals called oreodonts. Some National Park Service sites, such as Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Colorado and Fossil Butte National Monument in Wyoming preserve Eocene fossils in amazing detail that provide windows into their life and the ancient environments they existed. Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument has a rich record of fossil plants and insects like wasps and early butterflies that were preserved when a volcanic ash covered up a series of ponds. Fossil Butte National Monument has fossils of plants and animals that lived in large lakes that covered much of Wyoming and Utah. The lakes preserved palm trees, early birds and bats, even freshwater stingrays! Other parks with abundant Eocene fossils include John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.


The Oligocene (34 to 23 million years ago) saw continued drying and cooling with expansions of grasslands and savannas across North America. Titanothere were extinct by this time and mammals such as true rhinos, horses, and camels became the more dominant terrestrial herbivorous mammals. The largest carnivore during the Oligocene was a pig-like entelodont called Archaeotherium, but smaller carnivores like the early dog Hesperocyon and the cat-like sabertooth Eusmilus hunted smaller game. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon and Badlands National Park in South Dakota have rich Oligocene fossil records within their park boundaries.


General drying and cooling continued across North America through the Miocene (23 to 5.3 million years ago), with the interruption of a short period of warm and moist conditions. It was during the Miocene that alligators and crocodiles could no longer live in the midwestern United States. Rhinos, horses, and camels steadily grew larger and we also see the first evidence of proboscideans (elephants and their evolutionary cousins) arriving into North America via land bridge connections between North American and Asia. These early relatives of elephants, called gomphotheres, were large, but with shorter legs compared to their modern relatives, and some had elongated shovel-like lower jaws and four tusks. Entelodonts such as Daeodon were still the largest predators during the early Miocene but now were facing strong competition from bear-dogs, relatives of both dogs and bears, some of which reached the size of large lions during the Miocene. Fossils of Daeodon and bear-dogs have been found at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska.


The Pliocene (5.3 to 2.58 million years ago) saw the beginning of the last great ice age in North America. Rhinos, which had lived in North America for tens of millions of years, went extinct on this continent early in the Pliocene. Proboscideans flourished in North America which include early relatives of mammoths and mastodons. Horses and camels grew in diversity and many different sizes at this time. Pronghorns, which is an American native herbivore, first evolved during the Miocene in North America, but became very diverse during the Pliocene. The carnivores found during the Pliocene in North America included saber-toothed cats, bone-crushing dogs, and bears. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument in Idaho is a excellent example of the Pliocene faunas found in North America. Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is famous for a large number of ancient zebra-like horses, Equus simplicidens, that were collected by Smithsonian scientists in the 1920s. Along with the horses, fossils of peccaries, otters, camels, early puma, mastodons, and ground sloths were also found. Another park with an important Pliocene fossil record is Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia, along the Mid-Atlantic coast.


The Pleistocene (2.58 million to 11,700 years ago) saw repeated building and melting of glaciers across parts of the world. These are called glaciation events, the last of which ended roughly 12,000 years ago. There are multiple National Park units across the United States with rich Pleistocene fossil records. At Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument in Nevada and Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas, fossils of large mammals such as Columbian mammoths, camels and saber-toothed cats have been found. At Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, a cave was discovered that was once the home to Shasta ground sloths, American cheetahs, and vampire bats. At Channel Islands National Park in California, the Channel Islands were once the home of dwarf mammoths and “giant” deer mice. Recently, at White Sands National Park in New Mexico, the earliest evidence of modern humans in the form of foot prints of adults and children were found in sediments that once were lakebeds along with the tracks of mammoths, ground sloths, wolves, camels, and saber-toothed cats.

We hope the above information may inspire your artistic submissions for our 2022 National Fossil Day Art Contest. We encourage you to explore the links to the parks and also look into your closest National Park System unit to see if it has its own unique Cenozoic fossil record.

Art Contest Guidelines

Click here to open the art contest entry form.

Who can enter?

The contest is open to any interested person, of all ages. Entries will be judged based on originality, creativity, and how well the submission addresses this year’s contest theme. You must be a resident of the United States to enter.

What should my artwork include?

Your artwork should focus on the art contest theme “The Age of Mammals in our National Parks and Monuments”. It can include one or more fossil representative, prehistoric organism, and/or prehistoric scene from one or more National Park Service sites but the artwork must include the name of the parks or monuments they come from. We would also like to know why you chose that particular fossil and park as your subject in the statement you provide in the registration form.

The artwork can be in the form of a photograph (black & white or color), a painting, a drawing, or a sketch. All artwork must be 2D and flat.

Questions to help you get started...

Where is the closest National Park or Monument near me? Does it have fossils? What is my favorite Cenozoic fossil or prehistoric creature? Can we find it at a National Park Service site? Do I want to focus on one type of fossil or show many? Do I have a favorite geologic age?

How large should the artwork be?

All artwork should be able to fit inside a 13"x 17" envelope or smaller. Digital entries must be at least between 300 to 600 DPI and in jpeg format.

What do I need to submit?

A valid submission will contain the following information:

  1. An original copy of the artwork. Each piece must be original, authentic, unpublished, the sole property of the entrant, and not previously submitted in any other contest. Make sure to include a sentence or two on your submission form describing your artwork. For digital entries, please scan or provide a high-quality digital photo of your piece showing the art entry (no back ground and/or showing individuals holding up the art entry). Digital photos of art entries must be clear, with consistent lighting, and no shadows.
  2. Your personal information, printed on either the back of your artwork or on a separate sheet attached to your physical artwork or provided with the e-mail for your digital entry:
  • First and last name:
  • Mailing address:
  • Phone number:
  • E-mail address:

  1. A completed and signed entry form. Print out the entry form here and send it to us when you send your artwork. Entries cannot be accepted without a signed entry form.

How should I submit my artwork and entry form?

Artwork must be either sent by mail, along with your contact information to the address below; or sent digitally with a pdf of the signed completed entry form to the e-mail address below.

Important: You must have a signed and completed entry form (if under 18, a parent or guardian must sign) to enter.

Physical entry forms may be submitted by mail along with your artwork. All mailed entry forms must be sent to:

National Fossil Day Art Contest
c/o Vincent L. Santucci
370 Montclair Road
Gettysburg, PA 17325

Digital entries with completed entry forms are emailed to:

When is the deadline?

All submissions must be received by mail or email no later than 5 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 1st, 2022.

How will the artwork be judged?

The artwork will be judged by a panel on originality, creativity, quality and, most importantly, relevance to the topic. Four top entries in each age group will be selected including 1st Place, 2nd Place, 3rd Place and Honorable Mention. The age groups are:

  • 8 years old and under
  • 9 to 13 years of age
  • 14 to 18 years of age
  • 18 and older

The winner's artwork will appear on the National Fossil Day Art Contest Winners Gallery starting on October 12th, 2022. Check the National Fossil Day website to see if your artwork has been selected!

Disclaimer: By submitting an entry, an entrant agrees to allow the National Park Service to use his or her name to post on the NPS's National Fossil Day Web site, without compensation unless prohibited. All entries and all rights of ownership in and to the entries, including all rights to use, reproduce, publish, modify, edit, and distribute the same will become the exclusive property of NPS and will not be returned. NPS reserves the right to edit, modify, copyright, publish, use, and reproduce any and all entries without further compensation. The National Park Service, its agents and contractor, are not responsible for lost, late, misdirected, incomplete, or postage-due entries. Contest void if prohibited or restricted by law.