Museum shows off Venice's fossilized history

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VENICE, Fla. - A new fossil display at the Venice Museum and Archives is highlighting what has been unearthed in our area. You may be surprised.

Curator Michelle Harm takes us back. "The large bone here is the femur of a mammoth."

It’s an impressive display of fossils, from the tens and hundreds of thousands to the millions of years old. All are from right here in our own back yard: the remains of camels, saber tooth cats, mammoths, mastodons, giant land sloths, and monster megladon sharks to name a few.

"It's amazing the creatures from land and sea that lived in the Venice area and Sarasota County in general. They are just mind boggling."

Did you know the short-legged rhinoceros once called the area home? Or how about a walrus? Many were found near local river banks and just offshore in an ever-revealing marine deposit. "Usually in other parts of the country you are having to chip away through rock and stone to unearth the fossils. Here we have a lot of fossils that are in shell pits and within sand at the beaches that are very easy to remove."

Also on display is the correspondence between the Smithsonian Institution and the early founders of the area, talking about a mammoth tusk and remains more than 500,000 years old. “When this area was being developed in 1926, they were digging some drainage canals and they actually stumbled upon some fragments of a mammoth."

Those remains are now in the National Museum. Education and outreach coordinator Janie Ewell says they're also trying to educate the public inside and out of these walls. "We could get in our car right now and be in the exact location where that was found."

Locations include sites like Spanish Point and Warm Mineral Springs. "I have been coming to the Venice area for the last decade. I would drive down Venice Avenue to the beach and have no idea of the history and the heritage right outside my window."

More than 350 fossils are on display there. Many are brought in by the Manasota Fossil Club and the Southwest Florida Fossil Society.

The museum is hoping to open some eyes by what's been found from looking down. "Lots of people are kind of shocked and surprised to learn about the different animals that lived here."

You can literally get your hands on some of the fossils here at the archives every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and the first Saturday of every month.

The museum is located in the Historic Triangle Inn at 351 S. Nassau Street.