Alabama’s history begins in its land, which features some of the greatest geological and biological diversity in North America. The geological effects of compression and erosion created an extraordinary array of natural resources. These natural resources, in turn, influenced how Alabamians interacted with the land, where they settled, and how they made a living.
The rich mineral deposits and beautiful vistas of north Alabama resulted from the forming of the Appalachian Mountains. Sedimentation and biologic decay under an ancient sea created fertile prairies in central Alabama and sandy lowlands to the south. Fossils, easily found across lower Alabama, provide evidence of much earlier life.
A 65-foot whale, Basilosaurus cetoides, was a predator in the shallow sea that covered much of Alabama during the late Eocene Epoch of the Cenozoic Era. In 1894, the Smithsonian Institution began collecting Choctaw County specimens that would be assembled for display at the Smithsonian.