Tuesday, March 23, 2010
My first object from the museum that is my life is a fossil.
Object Name: Psiloceras planorbis
Accessioned: October 2009
Donor: purchased by curator
Notes: Lower Jurassic Ammonite: Psiloceras planorbis. Planorbis Zone, Lower Jurassic, Watchet, Nr. Minehead, North Somerset, UK. 200 million years old.
Comments: I purchased this fossil in a dedicated fossil shop in Whitby, Yorkshire, a well known fossil rich area of England. The town of Whitby exploits this reputation through shops, in it's museum and through fossil hunting trips that are organised weekly. I have to admit that when I bought this fossil I had no idea about the controversy surrounding the sale and commercial movement of fossils. The mining of fossils for the consumer market is something that much of the academic world of palaeontology would be against. Those who defend the trade would site historical figures such as Mary Anning who was a fossil seller from Lyme Regis. Anning found and sold on to academics some of the most remarkable fossils that shaped the world of palaeontology in the early nineteenth century, including the first described Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus.
It is an issue that has a lot of grey areas and no clear answers but all I know is I will not be buying any more fossils.
If you are interested in the history of fossil hunting, trade and the beginnings of this science I highly recommend this book: The Dragon Seekers: The Discovery of Dinosaurs Before Darwin