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No mistaking its impact

Mistaken Point to feature on Canada Post stamp.

Following its recognition as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site in July 2016, Canada Post today issued a postage stamp and postage-paid postcard of Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. The stamp is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites – 2017 collection and recognizes the national significance of this unique location where "life got big."

[Mistaken Point postcard]
Mistaken Point is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be featured on a new line of stamps and postage-paid postcards offered by Canada Post. Queen's paleontologist Guy Narbonne was the lead author of the UNESCO nomination and has conducted research at the site for nearly 20 years. (Image courtesy of Canada Post)

Since 1998, Queen’s paleontologist Guy Narbonne has played a key role in examining and cataloging the fossil record - over 10,000 fossils spread over 146 hectares - at Mistaken Point. Located at the southeastern tip of Newfoundland, the site features some of the world’s oldest known large fossils – dating back some 560-580 million years. 

“It is incredibly rewarding and touching to see this recognition come in the form of something as common and ubiquitous as a stamp, that will be seen and used by so many people,” says Dr. Narbonne. “This represents a very stunning and gratifying recognition of the important place that Mistaken Point plays – not only in the history of life on Earth, but also in comparison with other great natural and cultural sites worldwide.”

The fossils at Mistaken Point have provided never-before seen insights as to how and when large, complex organisms first emerged. While life on Earth first appeared approximately 3.5 billion years ago, it remained simple and unicellular for much of that time. Between 645 and 540 million years ago – during the Ediacaran Period – large, complex life forms suddenly took shape.

“Mistaken Point represents a watershed in evolution ‘when life got big’, the sudden appearance of large and complex creatures after three billion years of mostly microscopic evolution,” explained Dr. Narbonne in a 2016 interview.

Dr. Narbonne was a driving force behind the efforts to have the site declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, acting as the Chief Scientist on the file. 

The stamp follows a long list of recognition for Dr. Narbonne's research, which has received widespread acclaim and recognition both in and outside academia. His seminal work has been featured in documentaries narrated by David Suzuki and Sir David Attenborough, and has attracted widespread international attention to the site.

More information on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites - 2017 stamp series is available on the Canada Post website. To learn more about Dr. Narbonne’s research at Mistaken Point, please visit (e)AFFECT or Queen’s Gazette.