VICKSBURG FACTS: Prehistoric discoveries in Vicksburg 

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 23, 2023

Did you know about the geological and paleontological discoveries made in Vicksburg?

The Vicksburg area has been an interesting place of discovery for many including those in geology and paleontology. Vicksburg was first visited by French naturalist, Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, in 1828. Then in 1846, an English geologist, Charles Lyell, and was able to publish his research in “A Second Visit to the United States of North America.” Other scientists like Eugene Hilgrad, the Father of Soil Science, and John Wesley Powell, a one-armed geologist and captain of the first expedition down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, collected evidence from Vicksburg for their research according to the National Park Service website. These are some of the scientists that have helped explain Vicksburg’s prehistoric history. 

To explain the makeup of Vicksburg, scientists have discovered the Mississippi Embayment. According to the Vicksburg National Military Park: Paleontological Resource Inventory webpage, the Mississippi Embayment is “a structure that influenced the Gulf Coast to embay northward as well as the geographic placement of the Mississippi River.”

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This is part of the reason why the bedrock in Vicksburg was created due to the coastal sea level rising and falling. 

Because of the Mississippi Embayment, scientists have discovered that Vicksburg was in either shallow sea water or on the shoreline during the Oligocene era. But as time went on, the shoreline moved closer to the South, leaving behind the bedrock still there today according to the National Park Service website. These rock units are known as The Vicksburg Group. 

The Vicksburg Group is a narrow band of limestone hills that starts from the east of Vicksburg, crosses Highway 18 in Smith County and on through Waynesboro, Miss. according to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. This band of limestone contains fossils of shallow sea creatures and dates back 30 million years. 

The fossils found in the limestone include invertebrates like mollusks, bryozoans, echinoids, crabs and foraminifera. In The Vicksburg Group, scientists have discovered some of the best well-preserved fossils during the Oligocene era. According to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality website, Scientists have also found several vertebrate fossils in The Vicksburg Group such as sea turtles, fish, sirenians, rays and sharks.

Loess soil, which is commonly found in Vicksburg, has also helped preserve creatures during the Pleistocene era such as giant ground sloths and a mastodon. Back in 2018, a group of Vicksburg boys made a discovery when they came across the jaw of a mastodon which was not too far from their home. 

In 2007, a skull of a Bison Antiqus from the Pleistocene era was discovered by two commercial fishermen when they went out fishing north of the point where the Big Black River joins the Mississippi River at the Warren-Claiborne county line, according to The Vicksburg Post, Oct. 11, 2007.

Some of the fossil discoveries made in Vicksburg and the Warren County area can be viewed at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson.