5 Awesome Things to See at the Smithsonian’s New Fossil Hall

They’ve Turned Back Time

After five years of work, the new Hall of Fossils at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. finally debuted on Saturday, June 8—and it is popular! Some 42,000 people visited on its opening weekend. That’s more guests than some Smithsonian museums see in an entire year.

Naturally, we had to be among the first to see this new hall, all 31,000 square feet of it. With more than 700 specimens on display, the exhibit Deep Time takes visitors on a journey through time: from the pre-Cambrian era, when life first stirred on earth, on through the eons to the rise of human beings. You can see the hall with us on the Murder at the Museum of Natural History Scavenger Hunt, running June 22 and July 20. Here are a few things we loved about D.C.’s new Hall of Fossils.


Weird Old Animals

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

…like this prehistoric horse. Look at the little guy, with his fingers and toes and fossilized fish friends. You’ll also find weirdos like a walrus whale, a hippo-like rhino, and a prehistoric beast that was kinda like a horse-y rhino thing…that went completely extinct, with no living descendants of any kind. Thank you, next.


Hungry, Hungry Sea Monster

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

Fossilized meals may not sound appetizing, but they’re invaluable for helping scientists understand life in the Mesozoic Era. This Mosasaur, a big marine reptile, is displayed with the pieces of Plesiosaur that scientists found in its ribcage. The Plesiosaur chunks suffered bite marks and damage from the Mososaur’s stomach acid, so you know it was a Cretaceous snack.


Dynamic Dinos (And More)

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

The Hall of Fossils livens up its piles of millions-of-years-old bones with some exciting poses. Instead of just standing around looking bored, a sauropod rears up on two legs to chomp on treetops. A prehistoric mammal takes a nap. Tyrannosaurus rex chows down on a Triceratops. And here, a Stegosaurus puts the hurt on a hungry Ceratosaurus.

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

The End of the World as We Know It

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

Peppered throughout the exhibit’s timeline are a series of morbid but surprisingly popular events: mass extinctions! Every few hundred million years, cataclysmic events—the dissolution of Pangaea, the meteor that ended the Cretaceous—reshape the planet, wipe out as much as 90 percent of all life, and reset the flow of evolution. Whenever they pop up in the Hall of Fossils, visitors are sure to congregate. It’s like passing a wreck on the highway, except that wreck is the whole entire earth.


Tyrannosaurus Rex, Obviously

Watson Adventures Smithsonian Hall of Fossils

The centerpiece and crown jewel of the exhibit is, of course, the museum’s T. rex,. As we mentioned, she’s making rather a meal of her time in the spotlight. The Hall of Fossils celebrates her rep as the fiercest predator to ever walk the earth, and—sorry, Triceratops—it’s spectacular to behold.