Paleontology

This section of the museum deals with the very beginnings of life. We trace the development of life from the Archean Period through to the Pleisocene, where our Stone Age collections pick up.

We now have the largest handling collection of Wiltshire Fossils anywhere in the UK. We're one of the few places where you can approach a 'local' history of life!

Megalodon Tooth

If 'Jaws' gave you nightmares, this might not be for you... Megalodon was a giant shark that lived inbmost of the world's ancient oceans, from 17 to 2 million years ago. It was 60 feet long and weighed 77 tonnes. That's heavier than the Space Shuttle! This tooth, seen here in comparison to a modern Great White Shark's tooth, was found off the coast of Florida. Evidence of these massive creatures is fairly scarce, leaving behind only their fossil teeth and (rarely) vertebrae in ancient marine sediments.

Fossil Sponge

Sponges have been plentiful in the oceans since before the Cambrian period. This addition, Toulminia, is from the Cretaceous period (145 to 65 million years ago). Our examples allow visitors to explore the remarkable longevity of these simple creatures which vary in size from the minute to the mighty...

Bison Horn

This dramatic Ice Age recovery from the Solent near Bournemouth, a 25,000 year old bison horn, tells the story of the land bridge; a stretch of land that connected Britain to Europe. Bison once roamed the UK in vast numbers, surviving the ice age and only being forced to extinction by human hunters and warmer temperatures. 

Mammoth Tooth

Iconic of ice age giants, mammoths weighed in at around 8 tonnes. This fossil, itself 5 inches long, is mostly worn down to the root, which tells us it belonged to an elderly animal. Mammoths are among many creatures that became extinct after the ice age due to climate change. 

Petrified Scots Pine Bark

Paleobotany is the study of plant fossils, and we are very keen on it at the mobile museum. The plants we have on display vary in age, this Scots pine bark is roughly 150 thousand years old and dates from a time when a vast forest covered the whole of Europe. The trees were practically identical to Scots pines we see today.

Gastropod

A discovery in Highcliffe, Dorset, these giant water snails were remarkably common during the Eocene period (56 to 33 million years ago). Dorset has always been a fantastic place to find fossils.

Crinoid Limestone

Crinoids are an ancient fossil group of marine animals, related to starfish and echinoids, that first appeared in the seas of the Middle Cambrian about 480 million years ago (that's 300 million years before dinosaurs!) They flourished in the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic, and some survive to the present day. This example is from Scotland.

 

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