• Audience
    Secondary school
  • Learning stage
    Stage 4, Stage 5
  • Curriculum area
    Science
  • Resource type
    Poster

On this page...


The word ‘fossil’ comes from the Latin word fossus, which means ‘dug up’. This refers to the fact that fossils are the remains of past life preserved in rock, soil or amber.


  • Even poo can be fossilised! These fossils are called coprolites.
  • The oldest fossils, dated at 3.5 billion years old, are of microorganisms found in Western Australia.
  • 20,000-year old trace fossils of human footprints were found in Lake Mungo National Park, NSW. A copy of these footprints is on the walkway into the Museum.

  1. What body parts do you most commonly find in fossils? Why?
  2. In which type of rock would you find a fossil? Igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic?
  3. How do the layers in Earth help us to figure out the age of fossils?

Fossils can be placed into four main groups based on the way they formed: impression, mineralised, trace and organic. This poster summarises the features of each group and can be used as a guide to classify fossils.