IGNITE! Christmas Geology Event at Museum

Ignite Christmas Geology Event at Dorset County MuseumOn Wednesday 9th December, the Museum is hosting ‘Ignite’, an evening of short geology talks by local geologists. Come and join us and enjoy a free glass of warm mulled wine or mulled apple juice and a secret recipe mince pie!

The talks will be:

  • Doreen Smith, ‘Geology of a Railway’
  • John Whicher, ‘New Insights on Sherborne Building Stone’
  • Dr. Trelevan Haysom, ‘Trev’s Shed’ – a tale of curiosities and a chance to guess the identity of some unusual objects from a Purbeck quarry.

This is a lovely opportunity to have a chat and refreshments with the speakers, and newcomers will be more than welcome. The talk starts at 7.00pm (doors open at 6.30pm) and is FREE of charge, although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

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

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Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Vol 136 – 2015

Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society Volume 136 - 2015Remarkable archaeological finds, controversy over the latest film version of Far from the Madding Crowd and ‘the world’s biggest bite’ marine reptile exhibit are revealed in the new style annual just published by the Dorset County Museum.

Read about the pliosaur, the Museum’s latest marine reptile fossil exhibit, a fearsome creature which had the largest bite in the world. Experts discuss new film version of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. Finds from the excavations at the Durotriges village excavations at Winterbourne Kingston and the major Roman villa excavation at Druce farm are detailed. Plus over twenty other major articles.

“We are really excited about the latest volume which looks great and has lots of fascinating articles,” says Dr Paul Lashmar, the journal’s editor. “These are scholarly papers but we pride ourselves that they are very readable so there is something in every edition to delight the casual reader or visitor to Dorset.”

Weymouth Bay Pliosaur Skull © DCM

Weymouth Bay Pliosaur Skull © DCM

The new volume features original line drawings on the cover that were used to illustrate the Cornhill Magazine serialisation of Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd in 1874.

“With its classic yet unique British countryside and a long and enthralling history Dorset is a remarkable county. Home too many great writers and artists Dorset can also boast the best prehistoric landscape in Britain and the geological wonders of the Jurassic Coast. The annual, the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society 2015 celebrates everything that is fascinating and important about Dorset.in the last year,” says Dr Lashmar.

Druce Farm Roman Villa

Druce Farm Roman Villa

While Dorset inspires many books, papers and articles, only Proceedings publishes with regard to academic scholarship. From its home at the Dorset County Museum Proceedings has published for 136 years a remarkable annual collection of scholarly papers, monographs and reports from a wide range of disciplines in the furtherance of knowledge and understanding.

CONTENTS:

PAPERS

  • What Tess meant to Hardy, and why Keith Wilson
  • Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) Directed By Thomas Vinterberg. A review Paul J. Niemeyer
  • How to get a head in Dorset County Museum: The tailless tale of Pliosaurus kevani Jenny Cripps
  • The environmental quality of the Sherford River (Dorset) assessed with macroinvertebrate data – Patrick D. Armitage, J.A.B. Bass & Adrianna Hawczak
  • Underwater light-trapping of mobile invertebrates in the Fleet lagoon, Dorset – Nina Wills, J. A. B. Bass & J. I. Jones
  • ‘Gone for a Burton’: Thomas Arthur Burton (1842-1936), musician & composer, and his family (from Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Cotswolds, Hampshire & Dorset) – Hugh S. Torrens
  • Mrs Alicia Moore, dedicatee of Henry Rowland Brown’s 1859 guidebook Beauties of Lyme Regis – Michael A. Taylor
  • A token found at Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, apparently associated with Mary Anning (1799–1847), fossil collector – Michael A. Taylor & Richard Bull
  • The Dorset Hundreds from the early nineteenth century – J. W. Hart

ARCHAEOLOGY

  • Dorset Archaeology in 2014
  • Portable Antiquities Scheme 2014 – Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen
  • Preston: Bowleaze Cove Romano-British building – Iain Hewitt And Grace Jones
  • Observations at Church Street, Christchurch – Michael Heaton with a contribution from Professor Malcolm Thurlby
  • Interim Report: Druce Farm Roman villa, Puddletown – Lilian Ladle And Andrew Morgan
  • Excavation of a Romano-British well at Farnham – Martin Green, Mark Maltby & Rob Perrin
  • Mortlake and Grooved Ware pottery associated with worked stone in a pit at Lambert’s Hill, Winterbourne Abbas, Dorset – Richard Tabor, With A Contribution By Cheryl Green
  • The Old Manor, Stratton – Rosemary Maw
  • The Thompson’s clay canal – A clay-working enterprise near Lytchett Bay, Poole in the 1830s – Bryan Gambier, Alan Hawkins And Keith Jarvis
  • Witchampton chess pieces – Gill Vickery
  • The Durotriges Project, Phase Two: an interim statement Miles Russell, Paul Cheetham, Damian Evans,Karina Gerdau-Radonic, Ellen Hambleton, Iain Hewitt, Harry Manley, Nivien Speith and Martin Smith
  • The Development of Properties inside the southern defences of Roman Durnovaria: an excavation at Charles Street, Dorchester – Andrew B. Powell with Contributions From Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, Rachael Seager Smith & J.M. Mills

Proceedings are available from the Museum Shop Price £20.00. However if you become a member of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeology Society the price is £15.00. For more details about membership contact the the membership secretary on 01305 756829 or visit the website for more details www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

For further information and enquires about the Proceedings contact the editor Dr. Paul Lashmar on 01305 262735

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.”

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Geology Lecture – One Man’s Dream By Steve Etches, MBE

Etches Collection CentreThis talk will cover the long story from the beginning of Steve’s collecting career leading to the building of the new Etches Collection Museum at Kimmeridge.

Steve Etches is a plumber by trade, but has been collecting Kimmeridge Clay fossils for the past 35 years, all in his own spare time and housed privately at his home. The collection contains well over 2000 specimens, many of which of those are new to science and are of great palaenotological importance. The collection enjoys great patronage and endorsements from palaeontologists, geologists and scientists and it is a great achievement to be able to create a permanent home for the collection here at Kimmeridge in Dorset.

Steve Etches talk takes place at 6.30pm for 7.00pm on Wednesday 8th April. The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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IGNITE! Christmas Geology Event at Museum

Fossil FishA lively Geology group meets monthly at Dorset County Museum throughout the year. In December the meeting will take the form of four quick-fire lectures from well-known local geologists accompanied by a range of seasonal refreshments.

Anyone interested in joining the group is welcome to the Christmas event, Ignite! which takes place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 10th December in the Museum’s Victorian Hall.

Speakers on the night include Richard Edmonds, Jurassic Coast Earth Science Manager, Alan Holiday, Doreen Smith and Purbeck stone expert Dr Treleven Haysom. The talks will cover topics from recent storm damage on the Jurassic Coast to the contents of Trev’s Shed.

Free mulled wine or hot apple juice will be provided together with mince pies made from a top-secret recipe. Everyone is welcome – this is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the group in a welcoming and informal setting.

The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

FREE entry to Dorchester County Museum extended

Dorset County Museum Victorian Gallery

The restoration of the parquet floor in the Victorian Gallery © DCM 2014

There is a bonus for visitors to Dorset County Museum, as continuing work in the Victorian Gallery means two more days of FREE entry.

Although the major work has now been completed, the special finish applied to the wooden flooring needs a further 72 hours to dry. The Victorian Gallery will therefore have to remain closed to visitors for an additional two days next week. All other galleries are open and the current exhibition of paintings and sculpture, The Heart That Fed, runs until 1st February.
Entry to the Museum will be completely FREE until 4pm on Tuesday 28th January, so don’t miss this special opportunity to view the collections and galleries.  The shop and tea room are also open.

Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said,

“The work is largely finished but the protective coating needs a bit longer to dry completely. We hope everyone will notice a huge difference when they see the new floor, and it will provide the gallery with all the protection it needs for many years.  The floor has now been returned to its original splendour as envisaged in George Crickmay’s mind in 1883.  The mosaics are set off spectacularly.” He added, “Visitors will still be able to see most of the Victorian Gallery from the Dorchester Gallery above it – so this opportunity is too good to miss.  ”

Museum hours are 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

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

 

 

IGNITE! Christmas Geology Event at Dorset County Museum

Geology Display at Dorset County MuseumDorset County Museum has a thriving Geology group meeting once a month for a varied programme of lectures and events. Anyone interested in joining the group is welcome to the Christmas event, Ignite!, which will take the form of four quick-fire lectures from well-known local geologists accompanied by seasonal food and drink.

Speakers on the night include Richard Edmonds, Sam Scriven, Doreen Smith and Giles Watts; the talks will cover topics from Fantastic Fossils to Shale Gas Extraction.

The talks start at 7.00pm on Wednesday 11th December, but doors are open from 6.30pm to allow time for mulled wine and mince pies. Everyone is welcome – this is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the group in a welcoming and informal setting.

The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs. For further information please see www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or telephone 01305 262735.

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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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.

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