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Named after the Latin word fossilis – to excavate, fossils are remains of organisms which lived in the geological past and were preserved in the Earth's crust. They are most commonly found in sedimentary rocks formed by the layering of particles deposited on the floors of seas, lakes, or wetlands, but can also be found in volcanic ash, preserved in ice, in resin of all kinds of evergreen trees, in tar, peat, coal, and in deserts, mummified due to dehydration.
Fossils provide direct, physical evidence of life throughout the geological past, and its evolution from fossil bacteria around 3.6 billion years ago to the life forms we know today. Each geological era is characterised by certain types of organisms. The National Museum's palaeontological collection boasts a total of 35,000 specimens, 20,000 of which were found on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.