Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site
The Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site is a fossil-rich location at the former Union Chapel Mine, a surface coal mine in the Mary Lee seam of the Warrior coal field near Sumiton in Walker County.
The exposed layers of slate and shale at the former coal mine are rich in fossil impressions of plants and animals living during the the Pennsylvanian subperiod of the Carboniferous period of the Paleozoic era (between 300 and 320 million years ago), well before the emergence of dinosaurs. The size and abundance of the site, as well as its state of preservation, gives it global significance. That significance is limited by the low diversity of species and the relatively few body fossils preserved among the numerous undertracks and traces. Of particular significance, however, are the large number of tracks from four-legged Temnospondyls, Amniotes such as Attenosaurus subulensis, and Antracasaurs such as Cincosaurus cobbi, a kind of salamander that was the largest land creature alive during that period. Other finds include traces left by fish schooling in shallow pools, borrows of fly larvae and worms, and plant and insect fossil remains, including large impressions from [[
The presence of reptile and amphibian prints in Carboniferous layers in the Mary Lee seam was recorded by Truman Aldrich in 1930, but little subsequent study was done in the coal fields of the Birmingham District.
After being shown fossils collected on the property by one of her students, Oneonta High School science teacher Ashley Allen brought the site's rich fossil deposits to the attention of the Birmingham Paleontological Society. They joined with colleagues and amateur fossil hunters in campaigning against the planned reclamation of the former mining site. Instead the state of Alabama and New Acton Coal each contributed $10,000 to settle an option on the property in 2004. The site was dedicated by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on March 12, 2005. It is managed by the Alabama Paleontological Society and was named in memory of Steven C. Minkin, geologist and member of the society who played a lead role in its preservation before his death.
In Spring 2010 housewife Cindy Wallace made a significant find while fossil-hunting with her son, Gavin. A split piece of slate revealed seven perfectly-preserved footprints from Attenosaurus subulensis.
- Aldrich, Truman H. and Walter B. Jones (1930) Footprints from the Coal Measures of Alabama. Alabama Museum of Natural History. Museum Paper No. 9
- Faulk, Kent (July 15, 2002) "Ancient stories in stone face extinction." The Birmingham News
- Buta, R. J., A. K. Rindsberg and D. C. Kopaska-Merkel, eds. (2005) Pennsylvanian Footprints in the Black Warrior Basin of Alabama. Alabama Paleontological Society Monograph No. 1
- Kopaska-Merkel, David C. (January 27, 2010) Stephen C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint Site. Encyclopedia of Alabama online - accessed April 12, 2010
- Spencer, Thomas (April 12, 2010) "Walker County woman finds ancient amphibian fossil." The Birmingham News
- Price, Mark (July 21, 2021) "This rare Alabama fossil resembles reptile skin. Here’s what it really is" The Charlotte Observer/Tribune Media Services
- Photographic Trackway Database by Ron Buta, Alabama Paleontological Society