Upcoming Museum Events over Summer 2014

Dorset County MuseumFamily Activities

Family activities continue to be FREE at Dorset County Museum thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors. There is an exciting programme for the Summer Holidays including:

  • 23rd July: Stone Age Art
  • 30th July: Make a Celtic Mirror
  • 6th August: Clone Henge!
  • 27th Aug: Brilliant Bronze Age

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Jurassic Fun


A recent addition to our Jurassic Coast Gallery is a large LEGO® model of a fierce Megalosaurus dinosaur. There are two LEGO®-based events, on 12th and 20th August, building a giant mosaic of a Megalosaurus out of LEGO® bricks. Aimed at children aged 5 – 10, spaces will be limited and every child will receive a brand new model made of LEGO® to put together at home. The cost is just £10 per child.

Young Archaeologists’ Club

Young Archaeologist Club Dorset County MuseumThe Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC) is the only UK-wide club for young people interested in archaeology. The club is run by Council for British Archaeology (CBA), an educational charity working for over 65 years to promote ‘Archaeology for All’. YAC’s vision is for all young people to have opportunities to be inspired and excited by archaeology, and to empower them to help shape its future. A new Young Archaeologists’ Club (for ages 8 to 17) is being established at the Museum, running on the first Saturday of every month. 10.30am to 12.30pm. For ages 8 – 17. Book your place soon as numbers are limited.

  • To find out more about the Young Archaeologists’ Club and LEGO® events and to reserve your place, please phone Dorset County Museum on 01305 756827.

MegaLEGOsaurus: Jurassic Coast project at Dorset County Museum


Megalosaurus created by Ed Diament of Bright Bricks displayed in the Museum’s Jurassic Coast Gallery

The Jurassic Coast is England’s only Natural World Heritage site, covering the 95-mile length of coastline from Exmouth to Studland. It incorporates well-known coastal towns such as Lyme Regis and Bridport and also Gateway towns like Dorchester, set back from the coastline itself. This summer a new project called the Jurassic Coast Museums Partnership teams up nine museums along the Jurassic Coast and, with funding from The Arts Council, brings a host of dinosaur-related events and exhibitions to Dorset.

Ed Diament and Jon Murden

Ed Diment of Bright Bricks and museum Director Jon Murden stand by the Lego  Megalosaurus

One highly visible part of the project is already in place. A large model of a Megalosaurus, built entirely out of LEGO®, now stands in the turret window of Dorset County Museum’s Jurassic Coast Gallery. These dinosaurs lived in Dorset in the late Jurassic period around 166 million years ago and grew up to 9m long. Although no one can know exactly what they looked like, as a whole skeleton has never been found, you can get a pretty good idea from the new model now on display. The model was built by Ed Diment of Bright Bricks out of hundreds of LEGO® bricks. Bright Bricks have previously built a life-size model of a woolly mammoth and a working jet engine out of LEGO® so they certainly know what they are doing!

In August, Ed will be helping the Museum run two events based on a new LEGO® model of a Megalosaurus. These will take place on 6th and 20th August – watch out for further details.

In addition, a brand new display will soon be built in the Museum’s Jurassic Coast Gallery incorporating a huge slab of limestone found in a quarry near Swanage. The 4m by 3m display shows the footprints of a number of dinosaurs including those believed to be of a Megalosaurus. Visitors will learn all about this massive beast and can try to match the dinosaur’s stride using lifesized footprints fixed onto the floor.

Monster fossils from Dorset and Wiltshire declared as new species

Weymouth  Bay Pliosaur Skull © DCM

Weymouth Bay Pliosaur Skull © DCM

An enormous skull from a giant marine reptile recovered from the Dorset coast near Weymouth, has been declared as a species new to science and named in honour of its finder Kevan Sheehan. The new name, Pliosaurus kevani, is published in the on-line journal PLOS ONE this week.

Mr Sheehan said; ‘This is a great day for Kevans around the world!’

Pliosaurus was a giant oceanic predator with a skull 2 metres long and body perhaps 12 metres in length. It was in fact the most powerful, scariest marine monster of all time, capable of biting the biggest great white shark alive today, clean in half (although they never existed at the same time). Despite their giant size, the oldest Pliosaurus species had many teeth, suggesting a diet of fish but over time they developed fewer, stronger teeth suggesting they evolved to hunt large prey such as big fish and other marine reptiles; plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs. Indeed, there are spectacular examples of bones, particularly limbs with massive bite marks; just like many of today’s predators, pliosaurs probably disabled their prey and allowed them to weaken through blood loss before going in for the kill.

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

The Dorset specimen, known as the and ‘the World’s Biggest Bite’, is one of the most complete and best preserved skulls ever found and as a result it has provided new insights into our understanding of how these enormous animals evolved. Giant pliosaurs were first found in the UK in the early 1800s, but most fossils were fragmentary, so their species diversity has been uncertain. The scientific paper has taken a new look at both the Dorset specimen and two other skulls discovered near Westbury over the last 30 years (the Westbury pliosaurs are on display at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery). That study has led to a revision of the group and the naming of both those specimens as new species as well; Pliosaurus carpenteri after the collector, Simon Carpenter and Pliosaurus westburyensis.

One of the most significant conclusions from the paper is that the genus Pliosaurus appears to have developed a highly effective body plan that remained little changed for millions of years in the Late Jurassic sea. During that time just a handful of species evolved and this is unlike most top predators in the fossil record which reach dominance but were then typically swiftly replaced by different forms. The research has been undertaken by a team of vertebrate palaeontologists from Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge universities and with Leicester, Nottingham and the Sedgwick (Cambridge) museums together with independent researchers.

Mark Evans, Curator of Natural Sciences at Leicester Museum said:

“We have so few diagnostic specimens and the extraordinary thing is that whenever a specimen is diagnostic, it often turns out to be something new. We’ve effectively doubled the number of British Pliosaurus species in the paper.”

PliosaurPliosaurus dominated the seas around 150 million years ago in the Late Jurassic and similar forms appeared again in the Cretaceous. They have been found in northern Norway on the island of Svalbard (the famous Predator X of television fame), Canada, Mexico, Colombia and Australia. Despite the huge size of pliosaurs, identifiable specimens are rare in the fossil record; there is about 1 million years between the Weymouth Bay and Westbury specimens, more than 100,000 generations, yet they are only known from three described specimens. That is because most animals do not become fossilised while, as a top predator, there are far fewer individuals than their prey source. This is the nature of the science; trying to untangle the history of life from just a handful of specimens, but that also makes it exciting as new finds, providing new insights, will always come to light so long as collectors are out there rescuing the fossils when they become exposed.

Sir David Attenborough with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Sir David Attenborough with the Pliosaur skull – 8th July 2011 © DCM

Further studies are ongoing with Pliosaurus kevani. All the bones have been through an industrial CT scanner at the University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering (the muVIS X-ray Imaging Centre) and the data is being analysed by students from Bristol University where they are particularly focused on the biomechanics of the skull, including the biting force of the jaws. Analysis of the scans has also resolved detailed internal structures such as blood and sensory canals and this work should be published in the near future.

The skull of Pliosaurus kevani is on permanent display at the Dorset County Museum thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Collecting Cultures’ program with match funding from Dorset and Devon County Councils.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Half Term Fun at Dorset County Museum

Dinosaur Fun at the Dorset County Museum

Dinosaur Fun at the Dorset County Museum

Dorset County Museum will be running two different events for children during half term week.  Both are completely free thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors through its Charitable Trust.

On Tuesday 19th February the brand new Dino Club has its first session. This club has been specially designed for children aged 7 and under and each session will have a different dinosaur as its theme.  This week’s dinosaur is the Megalosaurus – a Jurassic dinosaur up to 9m long which walked on two legs, and had sharp teeth and claws.  The activities will include making giant megalosaurus footprints.  Dino Club runs from 10.30am to 11.30am and only takes place in the school holidays.

On Wednesday 20th February there is a family activity from 10.30am to 12.00pm.  Everyone is welcome and the theme is ‘Five things you didn’t think you could do in a museum!’  These include making new labels for exhibits, rearranging a display case and dressing up some of the statues.  Both events are free, and there’s no need to book – just turn up on the day.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

New Dino Club launched at Museum

Dino ClubDorset County Museum is launching a brand new Dino Club this summer. Especially for children aged four to eight years old, the club will be held in the Museum’s Jurassic Coast Gallery and will be all about dinosaurs.

The first session will be held at 10.30am on Tuesday 7 August and after that on 14, 21 and 28 August. Activities will include model-making, working with clay, investigating a Dino-Discovery box and making a fact file. Each week the club will concentrate on a different dinosaur – the first one will be the Pliosaur.

“We’ve had a lot of requests about a setting up a club which just concentrates on dinosaurs,” said Pippa Brindley, Learning Manager at the Museum. “We hope lots of people will join in, have some fun, and learn something at the same time.”

The club will cost £3 per child for each session and accompanying adults are free. Each session will last one hour and numbers will be limited to ensure everyone has the best possible experience.

Advance booking is therefore strongly advised although spaces may be available on the day – please contact the Museum Shop by popping in or by phoning 01305 756827.