The world’s oldest fossilized trees occur in a quarry in the Catskill area of New York State. What makes this such an outstanding example of a petrified forest is that the Catskills are home to some of the oldest known examples of forest ecologies: not just fossil trees but actual fossilized forest ecologies. The Catskill Mountains are essentially a petrified delta dating to the Devonian (420-360 million years ago). The strata of these mountains display patches of what can be called the Gilboa Forest, an assemblage of very early and very primitive trees. With them are the weeds, bugs and fish that lived on the soils and in the rivers of that delta. It is an important record of a critical chapter of evolution, when life was moving out of the oceans and onto the land.
Originally discovered during quarrying operations in the 1920s for the construction of a local dam, the site was closed in 1926 and only reopened in 2010 when the dam needed renovation. This allowed palaeontologists and geologists to continue documenting this unique site.
Most scientific literature about the Gilboa Forest has been written in nearly impenetrable technical prose. This book, written by Binghamton University professor William Stein and State Museum geologists Helen Van Aller Hernick and Frank Mannolini, is an accessible introduction to Gilboa Forest. Published by the Gilboa Historical Society Press, it is an account of recent studies of the fossil forest in Gilboa, Cairo and South Mountain in the eastern Catskills. It describes the step-by-step uncovering of these three important fossil sites and introduced the major categories of fossil trees that were brought to light. This book brings the story of Catskill ancient forests up to date. The book features a wealth of full-colour images that show the settings of discovery, the fossils, and the palaeontological methods employed.