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Item number: 4058

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A Rare British Fossilised Marine Reptile Skull, ‘Ichthyosaurus Communis’
Lower Jurassic Period, Approximately 190,000,000 Years Old
Discovered at Charmouth, Dorset
Ex English Private Collection

Although their origin was initially misunderstood, the naturally preserved remains of once living organisms known as fossils have been collected and valued by mankind for thousands of years. Throughout early history their mysterious existence was commonly explained by legends and folklore, often leading to widespread belief that they possessed supernatural or medicinal powers, a legacy which endures among some to this day. In more recent history, before their true nature and significance was fully comprehended, fossils were explained by the clergy and enthusiastically accepted by much of society as evidence substantiating the ‘Great Biblical Flood’.

For inestimable years, fossils had been collected and sold as simple ‘curiosities of nature’, however by the advent of the 19th century interest in collecting and seriously studying them was increasing.

The crumbling ‘Lias’, cliffs belonging to the Dorset seaside town of Lyme Regis and its neighboring village of Charmouth became particularly famous for fossils and its association with pioneering collectors, most notably, Mary Anning. Her spectacular discoveries and remarkably insightful recognition and interpretation of them, were instrumental in enabling eminent scholars of this emerging science to make their achievements. It is thought that the tongue twister, “She sells sea shells on the sea shore”, was invented in reference to her.

Few places can lay claim to such a unique heritage, so inextricably linked to geology and the historical science of palaeontology, as Lyme Regis and Charmouth, they are unquestionably worthy of the profound reverence in which they are held among scholars and enthusiasts of these subjects, both past and present. The diverse range of beautiful, Lower Jurassic fossils found there are often exceptionally well preserved, as such they are regarded as among the finest in the world and have become particularly prized by collectors. Today the area is a ‘World Heritage Site’ and designated site of ‘Special Scientific Interest’, (SSSI).

‘Ichthyosaurs’, are one of the most incredible and most famous of all the fossils to be found there. The first complete skull was recovered by Mary Anning in 1811 and represented her first major find, indeed, it was the catalyst to her initial fame and can be largely credited with bringing the area to the attention of a wider audience.  This air-breathing, aquatic reptile ruled the Jurassic sea and was capable of propelling its streamlined form at great speed to escape danger, or in pursuit of its prey which largely consisted of squid and fish.  This is evidenced by remains preserved in the stomach contents of some exceptional specimens and in ‘coprolites’, which often contain disarticulated fish scales.

Vertebrate remains such as this ‘Ichthyosaur’, skull specimen are extremely uncommon finds from the Dorset ‘Lias’,  It is well preserved, unusually in three dimension and has been revealed from within a hard nodular limestone matrix with the use of acid preparation techniques.

Dimensions (Approximate)

Height: 10cm,  Length: 28cm,  Width: 18cm,  Overall Height: 17cm (Including stand)