Story: Fossils

Fossil soils

Fossil soils

As soils contain organic material, buried soils can be classified as fossils. Fossil soils are known as palaeosols. The dark charcoal-rich soil layer immediately beneath these tussocks in the central North Island is the result of fires lit by humans. Below it two fossil soil layers (light brown) have been covered with deposits (tan-coloured) erupted from volcanoes. Researchers can use pollen found in soil layers to understand past environmental conditions. Fossil soils containing burnt charcoal and moa bones have been used to date Polynesian settlement of New Zealand at 1250–1300 CE.

Using this item

Private collection
Photograph by H. S. Gibbs

This item has been provided for private study purposes (such as school projects, family and local history research) and any published reproduction (print or electronic) may infringe copyright law. It is the responsibility of the user of any material to obtain clearance from the copyright holder.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Hamish Campbell, 'Fossils - Microfossils', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 1 December 2023)

Story by Hamish Campbell, published 12 Jun 2006