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Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized

Be a paleontologist! Protect, preserve, and unearth Jurassic fossils in this educational board game that teaches players how ancient creatures became fossils, a process called Taphonomy

Developed by former Ph.D. student, Anna Weiss, and Dr. Rowan Martindale at The Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, this educational board game at your favorite game night or as an educational tool in your classroom! The game can be played with 2-4 people (or more if you playing teams) and is fun for ages 12+!

Through competitive play, game players learn about taphonomy (i.e., processes that affect an organism as it fossilizes). They explore how the organism’s biology, the environment it was deposited in, the physical and chemical changes during burial and decomposition, as well as discovery biases, can influence whether or not an organism is collected. Players attempt to preserve the best fossil collection by “time traveling” to the Jurassic; there they protect their specimens from taphonomic factors (either from random environmental events or other players) and learn what processes enhance or diminish preservation. Players then return to the present to recover their specimens and learn that collection issues can also bias sample recovery.

Want to use this game in your high school or college classroom? Check out the Activity Description on the SERC "Teach The Earth" webpage; the board game is part of their "Exemplary Activities Collection".

See the game in action!


Educational Board Game

Playing this game will introduce you to the complex pathways involved in fossilization. See how biology, chemistry, oceanography, and geology influence our view of ancient life on Earth.

Based on Real Fossils

This game is based on a real Jurassic-aged fossil deposit from Alberta, Canada! The animal tokens in the game are based on real fossils now on display in museums.

Supports UT Austin Students

Funds from game sales support research by Jackson school students, specifically developing and assessing educational activities (like more board games).

If you want to learn more about the fossil site this game is based on, you can watch a public talk about the site that Dr. Martindale gave at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, and read articles from the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT Austin, The Calgary Herald, The International Business Times, and the scientific paper in Geology: A new Early Jurassic fossil Lagerstätte from Ya Ha Tinda, Canada (~183 Ma).



Educator and Museum Discount

If you represent a museum or game store looking to purchase multiple game copies to sell in your shop, or if you're an educator looking to purchase a game for your classroom, please fill out this form to request your bulk discount code.

Developed by Science Educators

I am an Associate Professor at UT Austin in the Department of Geosciences. My students and I are involved with many paleontological, geobiological, and sedimentological projects so please contact me if you think you may be interested in joining the group.

Check out specific projects and facilities on our website: www.jsg.utexas.edu/martindale/

My name is Dr. Anna Weiss. I am an Assistant Professor in the Kimbell School of Geosciences at Midwestern State University.

I am a paleontologist and carbonate sedimentologist interested in how corals and reef ecosystems respond to environmental and climate stress. See what I’m working on at http://annamweiss.weebly.com/