Craft Academy: Dragons and Dinosaurs

Fabulous beasts on Roman Mosaic, Dewlish © DCM 2017

Fabulous beasts on Roman Mosaic, Dewlish © DCM 2017

Looking for something to do with the kids this Easter? Come and join us for a morning of messy fun at Dorset County Museum’s Craft Academy on Wednesday during the Easter Holidays, 10.30am – 12.30pm.

The theme for Wednesday 19 April is Dragons and Dinosaurs’. Our special St George’s Day theme event will look at how dinosaur fossils may have been misinterpreted as dragons and fabulous beasts in the past and we will Wyvernlook at the familiar traits they may have shared in folklore and art.

We’ll provide the materials and the inspiration – you’ll create a wonderful piece to take home with you. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE thanks to sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

Each time you create a masterpiece at one of our sessions, we will stamp your Craft Academy passport. If you collect three stamps we’ll give you a special certificate.

The next Craft Academy sessions for 2017:

  • Wednesday 31 May
  • Wednesday 2 August

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Family Activity: Anglo-Saxon Art

Anglo-Saxon-ArtOn Wednesday 28th October at the Dorset County Museum children are being invited to come along and discover for themselves how the Anglo-Saxons produced their art and what inspired their creativity. There will be an opportunity for children to make and take home their own piece of Anglo-Saxon artwork.

This activity takes place between 10.30am – 12.30pm. There’s no need to book as this activity is FREE thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors. Up to two accompanied children aged 4 -12 will be admitted per adult.

For further information about this event contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Spend a Night in the Museum with the Vikings

Viking Sleepover at Dorset County MuseumYes, it’s Halloween, but if you fancy doing something a little bit different on Saturday 31st October with your kids, come and join us for an activity packed night to remember in Dorset County Museum.

There are a whole host of activities planned for the night around a central theme, ‘The Vikings’, to coincide with the opening of our new Ancient Dorset Gallery in early November (this will be open for viewing on the night).

Viking at the Dorset County MuseumNot only will you be able to see real Viking skeletons over 1,000 years old, but Re-enactment Group Hrafnslith will be telling interactive stories of Viking adventure and derring-do, and giving weaponry demonstrations. On top of this, you can help professional artist Darrell Wakelam to build a huge Viking long-boat, and make your own long-boat model to take home with you. Then after hot chocolate and biscuits, nestle down for a night’s sleep before a complimentary light breakfast the following morning in the Museum’s beautiful Victorian Hall. We will be showing the film ‘How to Train your Dragon’ in the morning to end this Viking sleepover. A very popular event in previous years, this really will be a night to remember!

The Sleepover is on Saturday 31st October 2015 6.00pm, until 9.30am the next morning. Tickets are limited to 100, and are on sale now from the Museum shop on High West Street, Dorchester or by telephone on 01305 756827. This event is for children aged 7 – 13, with a maximum of 2 children per adult (who must stay overnight with the children). Ticket prices: children £15, adults £12 to include evening refreshments and light breakfast.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

 

Jurassic World – Come and see the World’s Biggest Bite!

Jurassic-WorldJurassic World has been released this weekend – and if you’ve enjoyed the film, now come and see the enormous 150million year old skull of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur at Dorset County Museum!

The fossil bones of this pliosaur skull were recovered by amateur fossil collector Kevan Sheehan between 2003 and 2008, as they were washed out of a landslide on the coast in Weymouth Bay. The largest piece weighed over 80 kg, and the skull itself is a massive 2.4 metres long. Featured recently as one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Biggest Beasts, the pliosaur was the ‘T Rex of the ocean’, an 18metre long ferocious predator of the seas. Known as ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’, the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur would have been capable of biting the biggest great white shark alive today clean in half.

The Dorset specimen 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.

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Since its discovery, hundreds of hours have been spent carrying out a detailed analysis and cleaning away the rock to expose the detail of the fossil underneath. Alongside this conservation work an intensive programme involved the Jurassic Coast team and Dorset County Museum working together to produce an exciting, interactive display showcasing the fossil with the theme ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’. Mounted dramatically on a specially constructed plinth that shows the jaws in an awe-inspiring open-mouthed position, the story of the fossil is interpreted through a series of film presentations accompanied by a life-size model of the pliosaur’s head.

Dr. Jon Murden, Director said “It’s amazing to see this skull up close in the Museum – standing next to it you can really appreciate its enormous size, and get a feel for the terrifying predator it once was.”

Related Link:

Bonfires and Dragons

Somerset & Dorset Family History Society

Patricia Spencer summaries an event held in the SDFHS Meeting Room.

On Monday afternoon (4th November) Jacqueline Dillion of Harding University gave a fascinating talk on the history of bonfires in Britain for our next-door neighbours, Sherborne Museum,  who use our Meeting Room for some of their events. Jacqueline is currently finishing her PhD thesis on Folklore in the Works of Thomas Hardy and so started her talk with Hardy’s description of a bonfire on Egdon Heath in Return of the Native. She said there is a long tradition of bonfires in Britain, going back to at least the 14th century, though the earliest ones were not in November but in midsummer, around the Feast of St John on 24th June, and it was not until the 16th century that celebratory bonfires moved to November, initially on the 17th to celebrate the accession date of Elizabeth I, then…

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Fantastic Creatures at Dorset County Museum: Ray Harryhausen talk and film screening by Tony Dalton

Tony Dalton, Curator of The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

Tony Dalton, Curator of The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation

An exciting talk at Dorset County Museum forms part of the current Pardoes ANIMATE! exhibition.

‘The Art of Ray Harryhausen’, by Tony Dalton, Curator of The Ray & Diana Harryhausen Foundation and film historian, will illustrate Ray’s creation of unique fantastic creatures and his unequalled style of model animation with images from his career.  Beginning with a young Ray watching the 1933 King Kong in Hollywood, he was so inspired by the film he decided to try to recreate it and bring his own incredible creatures to ‘life’.  Over the years his films included such fantasy classics as Mighty Joe Young (1949), The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1952), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), One Million Years B.C. (1966), The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Clash of the Titans (1981).

This talk takes place on Wednesday 28th August at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £5.00 for adults and £2.50 for children (aged 0-16) and are available from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or by emailing shop@dorsetcountymuseum.org.

A selection of Ray Harryhausen books available from the museum shop

A selection of Ray Harryhausen books available from the museum shop

There will be a book signing afterwards of Ray and Tony’s books, in particular, Ray Harryhausen: A life in Pictures which is available in the Museum shop.

Doors open at 7.00pm providing an opportunity to see the exhibition before the talk.

 

 

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From Mud and Bones to a Museum Specimen

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

The fossil bones of this pliosaur skull were recovered by amateur fossil collector Kevan Sheehan between 2003 and 2008, as they were washed out of a landslide on the coast in Weymouth Bay. The largest piece weighed over 80 kg. Kevan missed only four pieces, three of which were recovered by two other collectors.

In 2003, Kevan found three massive sections of the jaw lying at the base of the cliff, freshly washed out by the sea. Over the next five years he returned to the site after rough weather and rain, patiently recovering the pieces as they became exposed. This is an incredible achievement for an individual collector, and a sign of his dedication to the recovery of something that would otherwise have been lost to the sea. The three smaller pieces were found by other local collectors, Patrick Clarke and Shirley Swaine. One small piece at the back of one jaw is lost, while the front of the jaw was probably uncovered many years ago. It could have been washed away or it could be lying in a collection somewhere not yet linked to this find.

Funding

The specimen was purchased by Dorset County Council’s Museums Service, half its initial cost going to the collector and the other half to the landowner. Preparation (cleaning) and piecing the bones back together took 18 months of skilled, professional work. Funding has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Collecting Cultures programme, with match funding from Dorset and Devon County Councils. The restored specimen was formally unveiled here by Sir David Attenborough, on 8th July 2011.

About the specimen

As yet, the skull has not been allocated a formal name. It is currently being studied by research groups at several UK Universities, and it is thought probable that the pliosaur will receive a species name new to science (probably crediting its finder)

The skull is 95% complete, but there was no sign of the body at the find site. Entire skeletons are rare as they tended to be broken up before burial. The massive skull probably fell off the decaying body as it rolled about in the Jurassic sea, being ripped apart by scavenging creatures, possibly even other pliosaurs. The complete animal would have measured between 15 and 18 m in length.

Its skull is 2.4 m long, and is believed to have possessed the biggest bite of all time – powerful enough to sever a small car in two! Although they never lived at the same time, it could have torn the biggest great white shark alive today clean in half.

Pliosaurs lived during the ‘Mesozoic Era’, the age where reptiles dominated the animal kingdom. Dinosaurs patrolled the land, pterosaurs soared the skies, and a variety of large aquatic reptiles (such as plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mozasaurs), ruled the seas. Both the dinosaurs and the marine reptiles died out at the end of the Mesozoic Era, 65 million years ago, when a massive extinction event wiped out two thirds of life on Earth. The bones of this pliosaur were found in Kimmeridge Clay sediments (deposited during the Upper Jurassic Period), and are about 155 million years old.

Pliosaur

The Sea Dragon – Pliosaur

Scientists have been able to build a picture of how a complete pliosaur would have looked from various fragmentary remains. Living pliosaurs were air-breathing marine reptiles. They are considered to be a subfamily of the plesiosaurs. Unlike some plesiosaurs, they had short necks with just a few vertebrae. Pliosaurs’ barrel-shaped bodies were equipped with a powerful tail and often a huge skull. The creatures swam by means of two pairs of paddle-shaped limbs (for example the forepaddle on the eastern wall of this gallery). The main identifiable differences between skull specimens are the jaws and dentition, which probably reflect different types of prey favoured by each species. They were able to catch and dismember large prey as they had powerful jaws capable of opening wide, and strong, deeply rooted, conical teeth. There is a model of the head as it perhaps looked when alive, hanging in the window of this gallery.

Ongoing research

Scientific study is underway to discover how the animal lived and died, and how its bones became a living reef for encrusting animals. The specimen has already been scanned at the University of Southampton using its high-energy, micro-focus CT scanner – one of the most powerful of its kind in the UK.

The results have been used to reconstruct a three dimensional digital model of the entire skull, revealing fine details of the creature’s internal structure that would otherwise remain a mystery. The University of Bristol are using this CT scan data to understand just how powerful the bite may have been. Experts from the University of Portsmouth will study the fossilisation process, while mud associated with the bones has been sent to the University of Plymouth, to see if any fossil plankton were preserved. Sediment removed from the bones will be studied by experts in the Natural History Museum in search of bones and teeth of animals that may have hunted around the dead skeleton.

Other examples

The Weymouth Bay Pliosaur skull is exceptional because it is 95% complete, but it is not the biggest in the world. Fragments of larger specimens have been found in the brick pits of Oxfordshire. The skull of Kronosaurus, from Australia, was possibly up to 3 m long. Specimens of comparable size have been found in northern Norway, on the island of Svalbard, and in Colombia, South America.

Other pliosaur specimens are on display around the world at

  • Queensland Museum – an example Kronosaurus found in Queensland, Northeast Australia.

Plesiosaur and ichthyosaur specimens are on display in the UK at