Special Report

The Most Famous Fossils Ever Discovered

Detailed Findings & Methodology

Of course, other fossils are well-known because of the important, sometimes pivotal, information they provide scientists about ancient life. Like his name suggests, Otzi the Iceman had been frozen for over 5,000 years when he was discovered in 1991. Being frozen also helped preserve some of Otzi’s body tissue. This enabled scientists assess how old he was when he died and even the color of his eyes through DNA testing. The Iceman remains the best preserved human ever discovered from before the common era.

One well-known fossil discovery that’s not included on this list is the infamous Piltdown man. Charles Dawson caught the world by surprise with his fossil discovery in 1912. Dawson believed he found the “missing link” between ape and human. He calculated that the skull fragments of the human-like ancestor he unearthed were 500,000 years old. With new technologies, his calculations were found incorrect 37 years later — the fragments were only 50,000 years old, well past the point at which humans evolved into Homo sapiens.

To identify the most famous fossils ever discovered, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed various famous fossil discoveries. We chose 25 fossils that were excavated over a range of years, with the earliest one discovered in the late 17th century and the latest in 2016. We attempted to include fossils of humans, early human ancestors, dinosaurs, and other prehistoric life forms. For the age of the fossil and location and year unearthed, we reviewed articles from the American Museum of Natural History as well as scientific reports.