Given that yesterday's gift pick was an adult beverage, we figured our gift today should be something the whole family can enjoy: microfossil matrices. One of our team members was lucky enough to grow up with a father who was an avid amateur geology/paleontologist. Not only would he take them on regular rock-hunting adventures to quarries and distant rivers, he would also gift them geologic treasures at the holidays. Microfossil matrices were one of those gifts and quickly became the most interactive and engaging presents from their childhood.
Collected typically from riverbeds, microfossil matrices arrive as unassuming bags of unsorted rocks and sand. However, hidden within the gravel are tiny Brachiopods, teeth, coral, Fusilinids, Echinoids, Crinoid stems, and other marine fossils. Each one is minuscule, typically measuring less than 10mm long, but they are riddled with prehistoric detail. See if you can spot the teeth in the photo above! Fossil matrices are impressively diverse as their compositions are unique to the location they're collected from. Some have smooth pebble-like rocks and others have monochrome white-washed rugged fragments making it more challenging to uncover the fossils. In addition to the visual differences, the matrices also carry different types of fossils so you never know what you'll discover!
The delight of this gift is the opportunity to sort through the rough for preserved riches. The moment when, after pouring over rock after uninteresting rock, one uncovers a perfectly preserved shark tooth or crinoid stem is priceless magic that everyone, young or old, will cherish. Microfossil matrices are like fossil hunts in a bag and, as life is stalled from COVID, having the opportunity to take a tiny at-home adventure into the prehistoric world is a true gift.
Fossil matrices are absolutely perfect for kids (although the tiny particle size means it isn't suited for very young children). You can find a variety of matrices online through specialty rock websites as well as Ebay. Transfer a few bags of fossil matrices from different locations into decorative jars and wrap as a gift with a jewelers' loupe and a small white dish or plate for a complete fossil-hunting set. Be sure to label the jars with the location the matrices are collected from! We recommend rinsing the mixes before sorting as it's much easier to identify the fossils when the dust and dirt is removed.
As adults, we love spending hours sifting through the tiny matrices; it's impossibly meditative. But fossil-loving kids are quickly hooked on the activity. They get to feel like real paleontologists– especially with the magnifying loupe in hand! Microfossil matrices are simple unique gifts that will keep everyone in the family occupied for days!