Honors Program

University Honors

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Chris Widga

Thesis Professor Department


Thesis Reader(s)

Blaine Schubert


The Gray Fossil Site in northeastern Tennessee preserves materials from a 5-million-year-old ecosystem, including wood from nearby trees. This study consists of three parts: conservation of wood remains, identification of taxonomic groups represented by the fossil wood, and measuring the organic content of fossil wood from the Gray Fossil Site. When excavated, wood specimens from the site are saturated due to a high local water table. After testing seven different techniques to dry wood specimens, wrapping a specimen in string and allowing it to dry slowly was the method least likely to cause warping and cracking. Microscopic examination of wood cross sections reveal tree rings with distinct anatomical features, with implications for taxonomic identification. Tentatively identified taxa that are present at the Gray Fossil Site are similar to those present in pre-modern forests of northeastern Tennessee. Finally, loss on ignition tests indicate that the Gray Fossil Site wood lacks extensive permineralization or mineral replacement. The presence of alpha-cellulose, albeit stained with iron oxides, illustrates the potential for future stable isotope analyses.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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