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Workers find marine fossils at Wal-Mart Supercenter site

By By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 3, 2001
Construction workers building the Wal-Mart Supercenter on South Frontage Road have uncovered evidence that supports the theory Meridian was once under water.
Neal Carson, Lauderdale County's engineer, told county supervisors Thursday that workers with Yates Construction found an exceptionally large strata of ocean sand filled with sea shells, sharks' teeth and other fossils.
And while marine fossils have been found in Meridian in the past, Carson said, the big news is the large amount and concentration found near the Wal-Mart construction site.
The county shipped four truck loads of fossils to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences in Jackson and will ship another one today to Southeast Lauderdale school.
Carson said workers notified the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality earlier this summer when they discovered the fossils. Carson said DEQ sent Yates a letter saying the four loads of fossils are now in a safe place at the natural science museum.
Chris Beard, a prominent national paleontologist, brought attention to the Meridian area in November when he led a group of public school fifth-graders on an archaeological dig at the old Red Hot Truck Stop site on South Frontage Road.
Beard, who had been awarded a $500,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, said he visited Meridian because mammal teeth had been found at the truck stop site.
Among the original findings was a jaw of an early primate with a tooth still intact. Beard said that the primates lived in Meridian about 55 million years ago.
Beard said that fossils that old haven't been found anywhere else in the southeast. He said that his findings indicate the Meridian area was once likely a coast line or part of a large body of water.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.